Category Archives: Marxism

In the Crevices Between Submission and Revolution: Disguised and Public Resistance in Caste, Slave, and Feudal Societies Part I

PART I

Orientation

Simplistic notions of Domination and Resistance: Polarized Dualities

When we examine the relations between those in power and those who are subordinate, a typical way of framing these relationships is as a duality. On one hand, those in power are ruling using various power bases such as force, coercion, and/or charisma. The impact of these power bases keeps people passive. In fact, some claim that that powerless people come to agree they deserve to be in the position they are in. At the other extreme are open insurrections where the powerless temporarily rebel or even enact a revolution to overthrow those in power. The problem is that there are no in-between stages or a spectrum between pure submission on the one hand and revolution on the other.

From force to coercion

The ultimate basis of domination in complex state societies is force. However, the use of constant force only works in times of conquest or open rebellions. When domination acquires a kind of social continuity, other forms of dominance are set in motion. James C. Scott, in his book Domination and the Arts of Resistance uses his experience as a sheep herder to compare the situation of sheep penned in by an electric fence with the dominant relations in human society.

If sheep are pastured in a field surrounded by a powerful electric fence, they will at first blunder into it and experience the painful shock. Once conditioned to the fence, the sheep will graze at a respectful distance. Occasionally, after working on the fence, I have forgotten to switch on the power again for days at a time, during which the sheep continue to avoid it. The fence continues to have the same associations for them despite the fact that the invisible power has been cut. (48)

In human affairs, this captures the movement from the use of force to coercion or the threat of force. However, the analogy breaks down when we compare the difference between the motivations and actions of sheep and humans.

With sheep we may only assume a constant desire to get to the pasture beyond the fence – it is generally greener on the other side of the fence since they will have grazed everything on their side. With tenants or sharecroppers, we may assume both a constant testing through poaching, pilfering…and a cultural capacity for collective anger and revenge. The point is that the symbols of power, provided that their potency was once experienced may continue to exert influence after they may have lost most or all of their effective power. (48)

The problem with social scientific understandings of power dynamics is that there is not much explanation of what is in between submission and revolution. But James C. Scott argues that rarely can we see a case where an individual slave, untouchable, or serf is being either entirely submissive or entirely insubordinate. In between submission/acceptance and open revolution there are other states of power.

Barrington Moore widens the spectrum between complete submission and revolution by arguing there are two other grades of resistance before the third stage of revolution:

  • lower classes criticize some of the dominant stratum for having violated the norms by which they claim to rule;
  • the lower classes accuse the entire stratum of failing to observe the principles of its rule;
  • the lower classes repudiate the very principles by which the dominant stratum justifies its dominance. This would be to identify with alternatives to the dominant system.

Scott argues that the historical evidence clearly shows that subordinate groups have been capable of revolutionary thought that repudiates existing forms of domination. However, subordinate groups are not born with revolutionary consciousness. They prefer squatting to a defiant land invasion. They prefer evasion of taxes to a tax riot. They would prefer poaching or pilfering to direct appropriation. It is only when these behind-the-scenes measures fail that they might be open to more drastic measures. Scott argues that there is a whole spectrum of resistance that occurs before even the first of Moore’s three gradients, as we shall see shortly.

My presentation of Scott’s work has five parts. In this introductory section, I will discuss three theories of submission, “thick”, “thin” and “paper thin” states of submission. Then I will probe into Scott’s three dimensions of submission including material, status and ideological dimensions. In the second section I will cover what Scott calls the “public transcript“ which is dominated by elites. These forms include things like parades and coronations and control of language. There are also forms of resistance such as the gathering of crowds and how terrifying they were to elites because they were public gatherings of subordinates without authorization. Interpersonal forms of resistance include mocking body language and verbal language including voice intonation and sarcasm. This will conclude Part I of this article.

In Part II I describe Scott’s notion of the hidden transcript. Hidden transcripts require secret social sites in which to discuss, rehearse and resist elites. Elites attempt to minimize this hidden transcript by taking away social sites and attempting to atomize individuals. In the second section of Part II, I discuss two forms of resistance that come out of the hidden transcript. One is social-psychological strategies and the other is the cultural strategies of resistance. In the last section of Part II, I describe Scott’s analysis of how the process of resistance turns into open insubordination. This is the electrifying time when the hidden transcript goes public. The general movement of both articles goes from the public transcript controlled by elites, to hidden transcripts controlled by subordinates to a return to the public transcript, this time controlled by subordinates who are now becoming insubordinate.

Theories of submission

When the upper class has power in everyday life, force is not used directly to keep the lower classes continuing to produce a surplus but by enacting a public display of their submission though speech, gesture and manners. How do we make sense of how this can happen? For liberal pluralists, the absence of significant protest or radical opposition is taken as a sign of lower-class satisfaction with the existing order. John C. Scott disagrees.

Thick and thin forms of submission

At the other extreme of the political spectrum, “fundamentalist” Marxists contend that on a deep level, perhaps on an unconscious level, the lower classes are aware that their position is unjust and in revolutionary situations  will discover what has been buried inside them. According to them, in revolutionary situations the lower classes will become a “class-for-itself”. How do these Marxists explain the consciousness of the lower classes in non-revolutionary situations? They contend that in these times the working class has been convinced that the upper-class justifications for their power are legitimate – and they actively believe in those values. They consent to their position. This is what Marx called “false consciousness” or class-in-itself mind-set. Scott labels these Marxist depictions of the lower classes as a “thick forms of consciousness.” This means that as people become socialized, the mask that they wear to do their job and reproduce hierarchical relations grows slowly onto their face and over the long-haul the face becomes the mask.

I find this term “fundamentalist” useful to describe a scholastic approach of some Marxists to socio-historical issues which rely too heavily on original texts to explain new events in the world and resist dialectical incorporation of new research which has emerged since the text was  written. In addition, there is a denial of the fact that some of Marx’s predictions were simply wrong.

Both liberals and fundamental Marxists agree that the lower classes in their normal conditions are satisfied or have “bought” the existence of class society. More skeptical of this are those left-wing critics who think the lower classes are unhappy with their situation but they think it is natural and inevitable. Instead of being satisfied or yielding consent, they are resigned to their situation. Scott calls this theory “thin” forms of lower-class submission. This is close to what Gaventa calls intimidation or the rule of anticipated reactions. This means the lower classes elect not to challenge elites because they anticipate the sanctions that will be brought against them. It is an estimate of the hopeless odds which discourage a challenge. Zygmunt Bauman sees power relations as being kept intact because alternatives to the current structure are excluded. He says “The dominant culture consists of transforming everything which is not inevitable into the improbable.” Here there is still a mask but it is thinner. The lower classes are less “snowed”.                                                           

Scott’s super-thin forms of submission

From Scott’s research, he thinks there is little evidence for the ideological incorporation of the lower classes and much evidence that the dominant ideology gives support and cohesion to the upper class rather than the lower classes, similar to pep rallies.  For Scott, what both thin and thick forms of consciousness don’t explain is how social change could ever originate from below. Instead, he argues that all these theories miss the disguised and public forms of resistance which are the subject of this essay. Scott says that these “in-between” forms of resistance are predominant in caste, feudal, and, slave societies.

Besides historical study, Scott draws from social reactance theory. Social reactance theory works on the assumption that there is a human desire for freedom and autonomy. When subordinates feel that their subordination is freely chosen, they are most likely to comply. When subordination is perceived as not freely chosen, there is resistance. In persuasive communication studies, when threats are added to a persuasive communication, they reduce the degree of attitude change. In fact, threatened choice alternatively tends to become more attractive. For Scott, there is little chance that acting with a mask will appreciably affect the face of the actor. If it does, there is a better chance the face behind the mask will, in reaction, grow to look less like the mask, rather than more like it. Nevertheless, Scott specifies 3 conditions under which a “paper thin” mask metaphor may be apt:

  • when there is a good chance a good many subordinates will eventually come to occupy positions of power. This encourages patience, emulation and explains why age graded systems of domination have such durability; and
  • when subordinates are completely atomized, kept under close observation and have no opportunity to talk things over or engage in either public or disguised resistance. This might occur when subordinate groups are divided by geography, culture and language.
  • When there is a promise of being set free in return for a record of service and compliance. 

Scott’s work is the study of forms of resistance which exist in everyday life and are not revolutionary but exist as a kind of guerrilla warfare. His studies are drawn from pre-capitalist hierarchical societies including the reports of slaves, serfs, and untouchables. He ignores the specific differences between slave systems in North America or South America as well as differences between agricultural civilizations in China and India and European feudalism. He claims that his analysis has less relevance to forms of domination in industrial capitalist countries such as scientific techniques, bureaucratic rules or capitalist forces of supply and demand. Scott’s work is an attempt to track how struggles of lords and serfs, slave owners and slaves, Brahmins and untouchables are played out under coercive, rather than force conditions in everyday life.

Scott’s three-dimensional theory of subordination and resistance: material (technological and economic) status and ideological

James Scott divides the political economy of domination and submission into three dimensions: material domination and material resistance; status domination and status resistance; and ideological domination and ideological resistance. Please see Table 2 for an overview of how these dimensions play themselves out in dominance and resistance situations. Material domination includes the appropriation of grain, taxes, and labor by agricultural elites. Status domination consists of forcing subordinates to enact their subordination through ritual humiliations, etiquette, demeanor, gestures, verbal language such as “my lord,” or “your highness”. Soft speech levels include who speaks first to whom, codes of eating, dressing, bathing, cultural taste, and who gives way to whom in public.

Status indignities form a social-psychological bridge between the subordinates’ material condition and cultural ideological justifications for why they are in the state they are in. Status indignities are the subjective and inter-subjective experience of being poor and landless. For example, they are in psychological despair because they cannot afford to feed guests on the feast of Ramadan; they are upset by wealthy people who pass him on the village path without uttering a greeting; he cannot bury his parents properly or their daughter will marry late, if at all because she lacks a dowry. The worst indignities are suffered by audiences of those who form the social source for one’s sense of self-esteem – that is closest friends, families, and neighbors. Ideological domination includes whatever religious justifications exist for why the upper classes deserve to be in the position they are in. Scott calls all three dimensions the “public transcript”.

Material resistance is divided into two types, public resistance and disguised resistance (cells 2 and 3 of table 2.) Public material resistance is what you might suspect. The usual tactics used by subordinate groups in reformist or revolutionary situations include petitions, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and land invasions. Public status resistance includes insubordinate gestures, postures, and open desecration of status symbols. This might include the victim’s pleasure at seeing superiors dressed down by their superiors. Once this occurs, things are never the same. Public ideological resistance includes counter ideologies which propagate equality, such as liberalism or socialism. They might also include religious heresies of spiritual equality.

The three dimensions of public dominance correspond to what most sociologists and theories of power address. Scott might call this “high politics”. Formal political organization is the realm of elites where resolutions, declarations, and laws are enacted by politicians used in written records, news stories, and law suits.  In countries with a liberal industrial capitalist orientation, an exclusive concern with open political action will capture and normalize some forms of resistance such as petitions, demonstrations, boycotts and group organizing to make them ineffective. Political liberties of speech and association have lowered the risks and difficulty of open political expression.

But in conservative, dictatorship, industrial capitalist societies or in the slave, caste, and feudal societies most people are subjects, not citizens. If high politics is considered to be all of what politics is, then it appears that subordinate groups in these societies lack a political life, unless they engage in strikes, rebellions, or revolutions  – that is, “resistant” politics (second cell).

“Infrapolitics” is the circumspect struggle waged daily by subordinate groups and is like infrared rays, beyond the visible end of the spectrum. If formal political organization is the realm of elites, infrapolitics is the realm of informal leadership of nonelites, of conversation and oral discourse. “Infrapolitics” provides much of the cultural and structural underpinning for the more visible political resistance that may come later. Infrapolitics is a kind of guerrilla warfare where one side advances to see if it its tactics survive or are attacked and if so, with what strength? This is the subject of Scott’s work. He argues that to focus on the visible coastline of high politics misses the continent of infrapolitics.

Forms of disguised infrapolitics fall into three dimensions, material disguised resistance, status disguised resistance and ideological disguised resistance. Together all three are called “the hidden transcript.” Scott’s interest is in the status and ideological dimensions rather than the material dimension of infrapolitics because the material dimension has already been covered by Marxist fundamentalism.

Direct resistance by disguised resisters includes masked appropriations of food or land and anonymous threats. Practices of material disguised resistance include poaching, squatting, desertion, evasions, or fraudulent declarations of the amount of land farmed. In addition, direct resistance can include simple failures to declare land, underpayment, delivery of paddy spoiled by moisture or contaminated with rocks and mud, and foot-dragging. The lower classes can use gullibility and ignorance that are elite stereotypes of them such. These may incluede “laziness” to do less work and resist taxes, land dues, conscription and grain appropriation. In playing dumb, subordinate make creative use of the stereotypes intended to stigmatize them. Refusal to understand is also a form of class struggle.

Status disguised resistance includes what subordinates say and do with each other behind closed doors to counter status insults. This includes rituals of aggression, tales of revenge, gossip, rumor, and the creation of autonomous social sites. Gossip and rumor are designed to have a double meaning. This applies also to folk tales, jokes, songs, rituals, codes, and euphemisms.

Ideological, disguised resistance includes the development of dissident subcultures, millennial religions, myths of social banditry, and the return of the good king, carnival and world-upside down arts and crafts, which was also very powerful. Ideological disguised resistance also has a double meaning such as jokes, euphemisms, and the Br’er Rabbit stories of slaves. Altogether, there are six forms of resistance, three forms of public resistance, and three forms of disguised resistance. The table below helps to differentiate them.

The Public Transcript of Domination and Resistance

The public transcript is the open interaction between subordinates and those who dominate them. The public transcript is the self-portrait of the dominant elites as they would have themselves seen. This can take the form of collective performances such as public displays with little interpersonal interaction and interpersonal performances where there is actual dialogue.

Dominance performances: parades and coronations

Formal ceremonies such as parades, inaugurations, processions, and coronations celebrate and dramatize the rule of dominators. They are choreographed in such a way as to prevent surprises. All parades imply a hierarchical order, a precise gradation of status, with the king at the head and the lowliest at the rear. They are authoritarian gatherings. In formal ceremonies, subordinates only gather when they are authorized.

Rather like iron filings aligned by a powerful magnet, subordinates are gathered in an arrangement and for purposes determined by their superiors…

In a parade, there are no horizontal links among subordinates. Without the hierarchy and authority that knits them into a unit they appear as  mere atoms with no social existence….subordinates are nothing but potatoes in a sack (61-62)

Who are these performances for? At first guess, you might think that coronations serve the purpose of displaying to their subordinates the might and coordination of the dominant. But according to Scott, they are not very successful in doing this. He claims that this domination performances is a kind of self-hypnosis within ruling groups to buck up their courage. The authorities want to create appearance of unanimity among ruling groups. This is why it is very important that ruling classes suppress members of their own class from disagreeing publicly.

Public Transcripts of Domination: Interpersonal

Deferential behavior by subordinates in public interactions includes encouraging smiles, appreciative laughter and conformity in facial expression and gesture. Gender differences in language are interesting here. For example, women use tag questions and a rising tone at the end of a declarative sentence, including the use of hyper-polite tones, linguistic hedges, stammering, and no public joking. (Scott says it is interesting to consider that there are few women comedians.) Subordination and domination are built into the different usages in terms of bodily functions. Scott sites the following examples: “Whereas commoners bathe, the Sultan sprinkles himself; while commoners walk, the Sultan progresses (assuming a smooth, gliding motion); while commoners sleep, the Sultan reclines.” In slave societies, slaves are referred to as boys, whereas whites are referenced as “mister”.

The upper classes also use euphemisms, that is verbal language, gestures, architecture, ritual actions, and public ceremonies to obscure the ultimate force-basis use of rule. For example in terms of language,  “pacification” is used instead of “armed attack and occupation”; “calming” for “confinement by straightjacket”; “capital punishment” for “state execution”; “re-education camps” for “prison for political opponents”; and “trade in ebony wood” for “traffic in slaves”. Scott says when bosses fire workers they say “we had to let them go”, as if workers in question were mercifully released like dogs straining on their leashes.

On the other hand, the practices of their opponents are vilified and presented in categories which delegitimize their opposition. Authorities deny rebels the status of public discourse and try to assimilate their acts into a category that minimizes the political challenge by calling them bandits and criminals, hooligans, or mentally deranged. Religious practices that challenge the corrupt practices of the authorities are labeled heresy, Satanism, or witchcraft.

Public transcripts of resistance: crowds

An unauthorized gathering was potentially threatening. It is so threatening to the upper classes that they call such gatherings “mobs” or “rabble”. In other words, they think people run amok because they have no authorities ruling over them. A gathering is an unauthorized coordination of subordinates by subordinates.

In an agricultural bureaucratic state in the East or a feudal society in the West, the presentation of a petition to the ruler to redress peasant grievances was itself a capital crime.  Gatherings of five or more slaves without the presence of a white observer were forbidden. The authorities were uneasy about the holidays because they lacked the structure of work and brought together large numbers of slaves. This is why there was a law in France in 1838 forbidding public discussion between work peers.

Pubic transcripts of resistance: interpersonal

Those in subordinate positions may refuse to enact submissive facial gestures, make way for elites on the street, or addressing them with mock intonations or exaggerated submissiveness, refusal to laugh at jokes of the upper classes.

Public transcripts of resistance: ideological

Holding the elites’ feet to the fire

Elites cannot do just as they please. Because much of their power is legitimized, they must at least make a passable attempt to perform some valuable social functions. This requires that it must:

  • specify the claims to legitimacy it makes;
  • develop discursive affirmations it stages for the public transcript;
  • identify aspects of power relations it will seek to hide (its dirty linen);
  • specify the acts and gestures that will undermine its claim to legitimacy;
  • tolerate critiques that are possible within its frame of reference; and
  • identify the ideas and actions that will represent a repudiation of profanation of the form of domination in its entirety.

Elites are vulnerable to attack if these conditions are compromised.

For example, in feudalism, honor, noblesseoblige, bravery, and expansive generosity are expected from the aristocrats. The feudal contract would be negated by any conduct that violated these affirmations such as cowardice, petty bargaining, stinginess, the presence of runaway serfs, and failure to physically protect serfs. In the case of the Brahmins, elites would need to possess superior karma, vital ritual services, refinement in manner, presiding at key rites of birth, and observance of taboos are expected.

Return of the Just King

Very often the lower classes play off the king against the aristocracy. It is the king who represents the true interests of the serfs, untouchables, or slaves against the abuses of the nobles. Scott argues that, Lenin notwithstanding, there is simply no evidence that the myth of the Czar promoted political passivity among the peasantry. Furthermore, there is a fair amount of evidence that the myth facilitated peasant resistance. When petitions to the Czar failed, instead of turning on the Czar, serfs then suspected that an imposter, a false czar was on the throne. Under the reign of Catherine II, there were at least 26 pretenders. Pugachev, the leader of one of the greatest peasant rebellions, owed his success in part to his claim to be Czar Peter III. The myth of the czar could transmute the peasantry’s violent resistance to oppression to any act of loyalty to the Crown.

Fundamentalist Marxists, using thick forms of subordinate consciousness, claim that the myth of the kind czar is an ideological creation of the monarchy, then appropriated and reinterpreted by the peasantry. Scott argues that these myths were the joint product of a historic struggle rather like a ferocious argument in which the basic terms – simple peasant, benevolent czar – are shared but in which interpretations follow wildly divergent paths in accordance with vital interests.

Throughout Europe and southeast Asia there are long traditions of the return of a just king. Indian untouchables have imagined that Orthodox Hinduism has hidden sacred texts proving their equality. Slaves have imagined a day when they would be free and slave owners punished for their tyranny. Contrary to Gramsci, radicalism may be less likely to arise among disadvantaged groups who fail to take the dominant ideology seriously because they haven’t yet constructed an alternative.

Summary

Subordination requires a credible performance of humility and deference, while domination requires a performance of haughtiness and mastery. Transgresses of script have more serious consequences for subordinates, and subordinates are closer observers of the dominant because there is more to lose. The same is true for women in relation to men and children and in relation to their parents. People in dominant positions think characteristics of subordinates are inborn, rather than staged for them.

Coming Attractions

Up to now all the resistance offered by subordinates does not include any systematic interpersonal discussion by them. There must be a specific social gathering site, usually in secret where subordinates can speak freely. Secondly, those subordinates must be trustworthy, often members of the same slave master family, kin or neighbors, and have very specific working conditions as we shall see in Part II. We will explore two forms of disguise. Disguising the message and disguising the messenger. What is the place of myth and folktales? Are these stories diversions from revolution or rehearsals for it? Is smashing statues or reversing roles in carnival cathartic releases which then make people more docile or do they provide people with a structure for systematic revolt? Finally, what are the conditions when the hidden transcript of resistance finally turns into a public transcript of insubordination or revolution?

All of this will be covered in Part II.

 

 

The post In the Crevices Between Submission and Revolution: Disguised and Public Resistance in Caste, Slave, and Feudal Societies Part I first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Social Anatomy and Dynamics of Power: Bases, Depth, Scope, and Dimensions

Orientation:

Question about the where, when, what of power 

Is power something inside a person (an attribute) or a relationship between people? Is power a neutral concept, or does power have a positive or negative charge?  Is power vertical or horizontal? Most of the time it seems that power is hierarchical and can be called power over people. But can there be horizontal power, that is power with people? What is the relationship between power and politics? Is politics a specific form of power or is power a particular form of politics? What is the relationship between power, persuasion, and control? Are they interchangeable? Are they three completely different categories or are they related and overlapping?

What is the relationship between power and authority? Are power and authority opposites? Is power a form of authority or is authority a form of power?  Is all power intentional or can power be exerted unintentionally? What is the relationship between power, wealth, and prestige? Can you be powerful but not be wealthy and prestigious? Can you have wealth and prestige but not have power? What is the difference between potential power and latent power? What is the range of power in terms of the number of people it affects, the variety of tactics used or its depth of intensity?

Resources for this article

The field of political sociology has many very good theories of power. G. William Domhoff has written about how power is produced and distributed in two books about how the ruling class rules Yankeedom.  These books are The Powers That Be and Who Rules America? W. Lawrence Neuman has covered much ground in his textbook Power, State and Society. The Italian Gianfranco Poggi has identified three types of power in his book Forms of Power. Michael Mann has written three volumes on power that have demonstrated a deep historical grounding.  They are called The Sources of Social Power. Peter Morris has developed a theory of power from a philosophical standpoint. Stewart Clegg has written three books on power that I devoured. His work would require way more space than a single article. Robert Alfred and Roger Friedland have developed the richest theory of power from the point of view of six sociological schools. However, for purposes of just getting our feet wet, I will only draw from two books, one by Dennis Wrong, and the other by Steven Lukes.  Wrong’s book is titled Power: Its Forms, Bases and Uses. Lukes’ book is called Power: A Radical View.

This piece will focus on vertical power: when a person or class has power over people to harness energy and labor to get work done. How exactly do they do this?  My article is divided into three parts. The first is the delineation of eleven power bases. The second is a description of the three dimensions of power – pluralist, elitist, and class. I will close by answering the questions that I first posed in the orientation. At least as important, how does it get to be that people come to accept their own submission to power? This will be the subject of my next article.

I Range of power

We need to be able to access the range of power. What is the scope of power? In other words how far in breadth and depth does it cover? How long does it last?  Dennis Wrong identifies three areas of extensiveness, comprehensiveness, and intensiveness.

  • Extensiveness has to do with how many people are involved.
  • Comprehensiveness is the variety of strategies the powerholder can employ to achieve their outcome.
  • Intensity is the range of how far it can used before it loses control over people. This has to do with the degree of coordination (in the case of power with) and subordination (in the case of power over).

Let’s use some examples. In the case of the sadist and masochist, power relations are narrowly extensive but highly comprehensive and intensive power relations. While dictatorial-tyrannical power will wield extensive and intensive power, the difficulty of maintaining the visibility at all times of the behavior of subjects sets limits to the comprehensiveness of its power.

There are three reasons why greater extensiveness of a power relation sets limits on authoritarian comprehensiveness and intensity. The first is the greater the number of subordinates makes for greater difficulty supervising all of their activities. Secondly, the more people it subordinates the more differentiated the chain of command is necessary to control them. Thirdly, the more people are involved the greater the likelihood of wide variation of the population’s attitudes toward the power holder.

II Power bases

By what means does the dominator achieve and maintain power? Let’s begin with the typology of power bases provided offered by Dennis Wrong.  I’ve added a few of my own from some of the sources listed in the orientation section.

1) Force With force, an individual or political group achieves their objectives in the face of another group’s noncompliance by stripping them of the choice between compliance and noncompliance. Force is treating a human subject as if they were a physical object or a biological organism subject to pain or injury. There are two kinds of forces – physical force and psychic force.

  1. a) Physical force includes the use of violence, damaging the body. Its purpose is to eliminate people from the scene or prevent them from taking any action at all. Violent force can also involve the denial of food, sleep or on a larger scale, employment. Force can also be non-violent by those resisting to domination. In the case of civil disobedience, resisters use their bodies as physical objects.
  1. b) The use of psychic force involves the damages of ideas, emotions, such as verbally insulting, degrading, or the deformation of character. On a group level, this would be ritual degradation, engaging in sorcery or casting a spell. On a less severe scale, nagging and browbeating are instances of psychic violence.

2) Coercion This is a term that is mistakenly used interchangeably with force. Coercion is a threat of the use of force. For example, I am driving on a city street and I see a cop’s flashing lights go on, indicating for me to pull over. I pull over not because I respect the cop’s legitimate authority, but because he has a gun. A man involved with a woman having a domestic quarrel stands up and begins shouting and pointing. This is not force because there is no physical contact. However, there is clearly a threat of force.

Coercion can take the form of symbols such as “Beware of Dog” signs, or gestures such as shaking a fist, swaggering walks, or verbal statements such as “your money or your life”. It can take place as displays such as in military parades or the flourishing of nightsticks. Coercion can succeed without force, such as robbing a bank with a water pistol. In the short run this is the most effective form of power in terms of extensiveness, comprehensiveness, and intensity while requiring the least amount of communication. However, it is high in the cost of material and human resources.

3) Politics This is the control people exert over what, when, where, and how people can and can’t act. An example is parents controlling their kid’s behavior as long as the kid lives at home: “my house, my rules” say the parents. Nation-states control their populations with passports, laws, and statutes.

4) Economic power This kind of power involves control over material resources such as commodities, wages, salaries, tools, natural resources, money, and stocks. The power of a capitalist over a worker is a typical example.

5) Symbolic power As a college teacher I can control my students by the power I have over their grade. Symbolic power is control over certificates, grades, and diplomas.

6) Information control/persuasion This is control over communication, whether face-to-face or through media. This control can be over information content, information sources or how or when information is presented. Propaganda is hard-liner information control, while rhetoric (debate) or dialectic (classroom) are softer means of communication control.

Persuasion deals with changing attitudes (minds) and/or changing actions through the use of rhetoric. Face-to-face persuasion is more up-front rather than behind the scenes.  Persuasion presents itself as an implicitly egalitarian relationship that leaves intact free choice without resorting to either tacit or overt threat to a group. As with all the forms of power before information control, it is irrelevant who the individual is, what the situation is, and the time and place of its occurrence. With information control, persuasion involves far more sensitivity to time, place, and circumstance. Mass persuasion using mass or internet communication is much closer to propaganda.

7) Charisma This form of power is based on the personal qualities of an individual such as charm, theatrical skills, oratory power, being articulate, or having spiritual vision. When applied to cults, charisma is the most unstable form of power because when the leader dies or is revealed to be fallible, whatever has been built falls with him.

8) Sexual resources Here we have the exchange of sexual favors for money, power, or fame. Sexual resources also involve the promise of sex and the manipulation of the other person with the prospects of having sex. So much of dating relationships is all about this.

9) Manipulation Manipulation is one of those words which is over-used and meant to refer to everything from news manipulation, advertising manipulation, or relations between equals. I will define manipulation as exclusively what happens between friends. It involves getting an equal to do something through exposure, distraction, deception, exaggeration, or guilt. In his book Influence, John Cialdini named many of these forms of manipulation which he called exploitation of reciprocity, foot-in the-door, foot-in-the mouth, door-in-the-face, and low-balling.

10) Legitimation This form of power involves the power holder having formal training, degrees, official clothing, badges, and reputation. What makes this form of power so powerful is that those in subordination have internalized the right of a legitimate authority to rule. Legitimacy means authority sanctioned by social structures and respect is given by subordinates (at least initially.) Authors of books and some political figures are examples. Legitimacy is the untested acceptance of another’s judgment.

All forms of power up to legitimacy require that those holding vertical power expend energy. In one case it involves the use of weapons, jails, and concentration camps. In the other wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, as in doing marketing research or advertising campaigns. In the case of mass persuasion, it involves studying how to write a successful political speech. But all these forms of power require constant replenishing of resources.

Using legitimate power may require initial external input through training or schooling, but over the course of generations the authorities can go long stretches without input because the subservient have internalized their authority. The initial input of authority involves the production of ideology of obedience through mass media, education, and religious socialization which people internalize. Once subordinates have internalized this ideology, this form of power is more or less set. Legitimate power is in some ways the most interesting because here the dominated have come to believe that the dominator deserves to be in this position. The extensiveness of legitimate authority is more limited, but it is most reliable in controlling the anticipated reactions of power subjects. Legitimate authority is most efficient in minimizing the need for keeping watch.

Most workers report to their jobs every day because they need the wages (economic power). But their attitude towards their bosses is mostly that their bosses also have legitimate authority. Many have come to believe that their bosses deserve to monopolize tools, resources, and property. When workers are upset, most of the time they demand better working conditions, more pay, and more benefits. They don’t challenge capitalist authority over what gets produced, how much, or by when. This 500-year-old system appears to be eternal and only rarely in revolutionary situations can workers imagine any other way of organizing production.

11) Competency This last form of power involves getting others to do something because of the powerholders demonstrated skills or know-how. The best example of this in the relationship between a doctor and her patient, a lawyer and his client, or a pilot and her passengers.  On the one hand, all these forms of power are legitimate. But unlike most forms of power there are neither guns nor goods that are shown to command obedience. Unlike in persuasive forms of power, with competent authority no evidence is needed. A patient may listen to a doctor’s advice without understanding the rationale. Their authority is imputed, rather than demonstrated. In competent authority, comprehensiveness and intensity are low. Knowledge is not depleted with use, and costs have more to do with equipment. Its basis of knowledge is utilitarian.

An even better form of competency is a hunting leader of an egalitarian hunting and gathering society. Here the leader has no desire to lead but their leadership is insisted upon by the group because of their skills. A story is told by an anthropologist that the prospective leaders have to be dragged out of the bushes. Oftentimes the captain of a baseball team is chosen by the players, the first among equals because of their competency.

III Multiple power bases are used and morph into each other over time

Human motivation is almost always a heterogeneous mix of different, often conflicting impulses which play themselves out over time. Because of this, a stable power relation of some comprehensiveness and intensity is rarely based on a single form of power. Each form of power usually has more than one power base. For example, a college teacher will use symbolic power as primary force but will support it through politics and legitimacy. An employer will use economic power primarily but combine it with political power and information control.

In addition, power bases tend to change over time as relationships develop over time and routine sinks in. For example, in a cult the charismatic power of love for a leader can deteriorate into a simply authoritarian political bureaucratic power when the leader dies. Prison guards initially use force and coercion but over time some prisoners become attached to the guards (the Stockholm syndrome) and might even see the guards as having legitimate power. An occupation that is chosen initially for financial gain (economic power) but may be maintained out of pride of craft (competency) even when the person is making less money. It is in the long-term, self-interest for the powerholder to try to transform might into right, force, and coercion into legitimacy. On the other hand, the dependence of the subordinates’ position in the power relationship will motivate them to come part way to meet the powerholder.

IV Three dimensions of power: pluralist, elite and Marxist

Pluralist

In liberal theories of power, such as that of the political scientist Robert Dahl, the way power is measured is that different actors and different interest groups compete in different areas of interest. Power is purported to be diffused across situations and there is “nothing going on behind the scenes”. Power is neither unstructured nor systematic.  Power is identified with the issues that agenda has set, for example, at a city council meeting. Power is subject to constant dissipation because of the push and pull of different veto groups. The exercise of power is strictly behavioral and observed and the word power is used interchangeably with persuasion.

Contrary to either elitist or Marxist theory, all power does not involve conflict because people gain power through accidents, unintended consequences, or just stating the issue more clearly. At the same time, those successful in a conflict of interest may involve more of their capacity to do things or more consent from others. There may be no struggle at all.

For the pluralists, the wielding of power is decentralized most of the time into several separate and single issues. This is different from elite theories that argue that the issues are connected. The wielding of power is overt and can be seen, as in the action of the leaders at a city council meeting who are limited in deciding on concrete issues in front of everyone. The preferences in a local participation have to do with the uniqueness of particular individuals rather than underlying class interests. Jeremy Bentham argued that preferences are the same as interests and are revealed by market behavior. Everyone is the best judge of their own interest and people are not seen as having illusions about their interests or being short-sighted about them. Interests are more or less revealed by participating in politics. For pluralists, political parties adequately make room for the interests of everyone because class conflict is the exception, not the rule for pluralists. Pluralists have complete confidence that voters are consciously aware of them and can articulate them. For pluralists it is too cynical to propose that people’s interests can be unconscious or that they can be inarticulate and politicians may have to express their interests for them. On a larger scale, pluralists think representative democracy works pretty well. Workers know what they want, can articulate what they want, and their representatives listen to them and carry out their will.

Politically and sociologically pluralists are rooted in the work of Emile Durkheim who believed that the state in capitalist society could allow democratic participation. When the masses explode, revolt, or create revolutionary situations it is a sign of group pathology rather that that the system isn’t working. For pluralists 40-50% of those who don’t vote do so because their will is being carried out by politicians, with their consent. It is not because there was anything wrong with the system or the candidates. Both the parties and the state are socialized to balance group demands and public interest. The image of the state is as a thermostat or referee between competing groups.

Elitist theories of power

Pluralist theories of power are clearly liberal. Class theories of power are straightforwardly Marxian socialist. Elite theory is considerably more complicated. For example, the Italian political theorists of politics – Pareto, Mosca and Michels – are all conservative. They explain political power as a battle of elites and dismiss the masses as apathetic, ignorant, and superstitious. On the other hand, theorists in the centrist tradition of Max Weber are more interested in explaining power in terms of the autonomy of state bureaucracies. On the left, theorists of power like C. Wright Mills, William Domhoff, Bachrach and Baratz analyze the ruling class much more critically than the Italian theorists and they are more hopeful about the power of the lower classes to assert their power. For the most part, we will focus of the elite theory of Bachrach and Bartaz because they directly challenged pluralist Robert Dahl’s description of power.

Elitist theories of power think there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than pluralists do. For both elitists and Marxists, issues are not diffused across social life, and many issues are interconnected. For example, both elitist and Marxist theorists will say that capitalists allow disagreements to be aired publicly around cultural issues of sexuality and religion but the rulers keep economic issues of the viability of capitalism and the gap between the rich and the poor off the table. For elitists and Marxists, there is not a plurality of different issues and different interest groups. Behind the scenes, there are the same few actors and the same few interest groups that prevail across all issues.  The full thrust of power is not exhausted on the floors of city councils over real issues. For example, a city council will argue about where the next place will be that the homeless are dumped off. However, they will not discuss in public why real estate companies have the right to buy up as much property in a city as possible. For elitists, power is not diffused but stored and concentrated in the circulation of elite groups and is not lessened through the push and pull of competing groups.

For elitists, whether competing groups are more or less competent in what they are trying to do or more or less the subject of accident, all power involves conflicts of interests – whether they are overt or covert. Power and persuasion are not interchangeable. For elitists, all power involves force or fraud, as Machiavelli said. Power for elitists involves limiting the decision-making publicly, while political issues are consciously decided upon by individuals behind closed doors. For elitists, interests are far more important than preferences and they are not likely to be revealed publicly, most especially conflicts of interest in politics or economics. Interests are most deeply human, deep, and dark and are far more important than people’s preferences which are guided by conscious motivation. Elite theories allow that people can be mistaken about their interests and often conflicted about their preferences. For elitists, people who don’t vote do not do so because they assent to the available choices. It is because they are apathetic, ignorant and can’t think beyond their own self-interest.

For elite theorists, the state is more concerned with ruling than with governing, and in managing its bureaucracy (in the case of Weber) rather than ensuring the voices of its citizens are heard. While for pluralists’ society is the state, for elitists the state has independence from society and protects its own interests. For elitists, power is not situational, rising and declining. Power is structural and independent of situations, serving its own interest. Power is stored and concentrated in deep state institutions which stay in place as local regimes move in and out. Power is about politics, force, and the threat of force. The population doesn’t steer its own course but is manipulated. Exploitations come from the bottom of the class structure. Because the population is not seen as capable of self-organization, disturbances are short-lived because the lower classes cannot keep their attention focused. Unlike pluralists, those in power do not govern with consent but rule through competition between elites. For elite theorists, the state both manages the interests of the middle and upper classes, but also has an interest of its own.

Marxist theories of power

For Weberian elitists, power rests in the internal bureaucracy of the state, rather than social classes or interest groups. For Marxists, power is wielded by the capitalist class which controls the state and society and exploits the lower classes. Marxist theory is also cultural and psychological in how it distracts the working-class from defending its own interest.

For the capitalists, power would never be shown either at the city level or even at a state level. Capitalists wield power at the national level in the control of both political parties. Marxists argue that while the capitalist class may have differences in foreign policy, within the domestic sphere capitalists agree to keep any third political party from forming and suppress any workers’ movements for higher wages and better working conditions. Both political parties are anti-communist.

How are disruptions of the lower order treated? This depends about whether capitalism is expanding or contracting. If capitalism is developing in prosperous times, capitalists will attempt to entertain, distract, and present reified images of life to get lost in. Here workers will have false consciousness. If the productive forces are contracting capitalists may be more repressive, neglecting infrastructure and begin militarizing the police. Elitists will claim conflicts exist between themselves which eventually subside. For Marxists conflicts are endemic because there are terminal crises in capital which do not subside but spread to other social sectors. For Marxists, unlike liberal elitists, the state cannot manage conflict in the long run because the conflict between the capitalists and workers is much broader and deeper than anything the state can manage. When it comes to local expression of power at the city level the pluralist will fight over the plays of the game, elitists will fight over the rules of the game, while Marxists will challenge the game itself.

Unlike elitists, Marxists don’t think all conflict involves force. Conflict can express itself through smoldering class conflicts which may not require the use of force. In the areas of decision making, the bias of the system can be manifest without any meeting of capitalist minds. For example, many years ago I was on an economic justice committee at a Unitarian Church and we decided to do a campaign to “buy nothing” on Black Friday. We wanted to place an ad in a city newspaper. The first newspaper refused our ad. We went to another one and the same thing happened. When we were turned down for the third time, one member on our committee claimed the newspapers were conspiring against us. Someone else pointed out that there didn’t need to be a conspiracy. Each newspaper separately would be threatened by advertisers with withdrawing their ads if our ad ran. Since advertisers knew what the competing ads were before the paper was published, we could understand that we would be rejected by all capitalist newspapers without any of the copy editors contacting each other at all.

In terms of interests and preferences. Marxists’ theories suggest that working class people are not conscious of their interests (false consciousness) and their interests are shaped by advertisers behind their backs. Marxists must point out to workers what their real interests are because workers have illusions about their interests, such as the prospects of becoming millionaires.

For pluralists, power is exercised through what is resolved on each agenda item. For elites, power is controlled over the decision-making process, of which items are not even on the agenda. For Marxists, power is exercised in convincing the population to take sides which go against their class interests. For example, recognizing that the funding for the police serves their interest more than low-cost housing. Workers are blinded by false consciousness which comes out of TV shows in which cops are brave and heroic individuals. They fail to understand that the police are a domestic state-terrorist organization mobilized to beat up and kill the working class. For Marxists, what it means to have power is to keep people from even articulating grievances which will threaten the economic interest of capitalism. Capitalists, through sports, movies, and nationalism shape workers’ very cognitions and perceptions so that they express their interests in superficial topics that have nothing to do with their own lives. Like elitists, Marxists think that non-socialist political parties cannot seriously improve life for the working class and that political participation in these parties is a waste of time. Capitalists control workers not primarily through force and coercion but through hegemony, in which the workers consent to be ruled through reactance theory. Reactance theory convinces workers that they are freely choosing. Marxists treat social explosions not as signs of pathology as pluralists do. Rather, they are treated as workers breaking through false consciousness and recognize their real interests lie in overthrowing capitalists.  Please see the table at the end of the article for a summary of these and other contrasting points. 

V The what, when, where, and how of power

Now that we have gone through the eleven power bases and the three dimensions of power, we are in a better position to answer the questions initially posed at the beginning of this article.

Is power individual or social?

On the surface, it appears that when it comes to power, one group has it and the other group doesn’t. But this is a mechanical way of thinking about how power is held. Powerholders can be weak and subordinates can be strong. More importantly, in most power situations those who are subordinate are many and those with power are few. This means we must explain how it is that those in a subordinate position allow those with power to rule. When most people are passive, we have to say that those people have some degree of complicity in allowing the small group in power to have their way. This is why power is a social relationship rather than an individual one. Pluralists and Marxists will agree that power is social. Elitists are more likely to think of power as mechanical with elites active and the masses passive. How subordinates allow those with power to rule will be the subject of my next article.

Is power neutral or is it negative or positive?

It is best to think of the word power in a neutral or even positive way rather than as strictly negative or a relationship that could somehow be avoided. After all, power is a collective and necessary process. Power is neutral in the sense that it is a collective exerted action to harness energy to do work in order to: a) mine resources (economic and sexual); b) confer prestige (status); c) coordinate action; and d) plan future collective action. Pluralists are uncomfortable admitting power exists and see it as negative. Elitists will see power as negative but inevitable. Marxists are more likely to see power as negative and positive and hold out that in communist society power will be used positively.

Is power over people or with people?

Most people use the term power to mean power over people. What this leaves out is the possibility that people can organize social relations without hierarchies, as the anarchists have pointed out. In this article the power bases and the dimensions of power have been used to have power over people. However, the power base of competency can be used to promote horizontal power relations. To be clear I will define two kinds of power:

  1. Horizontal power—harnessing energy to do work in a way in which all groups control all dimensions of society – technology, economics, politics, and culture. This is most prevalent in egalitarian tribal societies and in some kinds of relationships in industrial capitalist countries. Examples are relations among friends or comrades or collaboration at work between people on the same level. This is power with
  2. Vertical power – harnessing energy to do work in a way where one group monopolizes most or all dimensions of society. Vertical power goes with power over

The pluralists of one-dimensional power will think that power is over people and will try to substitute persuasion in their ideal city hall political engagements. For them, the political is situational. Elitists say there is only one kind of power and that is vertical, power over people. Three-dimensional class theorists see power as potentially power with people as part of the emergence of classless societies.

Is politics a specific form of power or is power a particular form of politics

Power and politics are very closely related but they are not interchangeable. As we have seen earlier in this article, politics is one of eleven power bases. Power is the end and politics is the means. Power is collective, exerted action to achieve outcomes. Politics is a means to control what, when, where, and how people move or don’t move throughout time and space. But other forms of power are necessary in order for politics to be successful. This includes force, coercion, legitimacy, and economic incentives. One-dimensional theories of power, being liberal politically, think power is a form of politics and are less willing to consider that power is pervasive so as to include all the other power bases. Two and three-dimensional theories of power claim politics is a means to power.

What is the relationship between power, persuasion, and control?

As we have seen in the section on power bases, persuasion is a particular form of power, and though its methods are less intense than other power bases, all persuasion involves power. However, not all power uses persuasion. Power can use force, coercion, and sexuality in which no appeal to reason is operating. Control is a particular form of power, specifically political. But as I said earlier, politics requires other power bases for it to be successful. Only pluralists hold out for the prospect that persuasion alone can win people over.

What is the relationship between power and authority? Are power and authority opposites? Is power a form of authority or is authority a form of power?

Again, power is the more general category. Authority usually involves the power base of legitimation. However, authority by itself is not enough. As a college teacher, my students might see me as legitimate, yet without the threat of the symbolic power of a grade, I cannot be assured they will listen to me. In addition, power can be asserted without authority. Ten other power bases can be operating in which the power holder will not have authority yet will be successful. Since pluralists tend to be more optimistic about social relations, they are more likely to think the public will listen to legitimate authorities than elitists or Marxists.

Is power intentional or can it be unintentional?

All power is intentional, but there is a difference between acting in order to achieve a certain outcome and achieving it and recognizing that other effects will unavoidably result. However, so long as the effects were foreseen by the actor, even if not aimed at as such, they still seem to count in the theories of Wrong and Lukes as constituting an exercise of power. This is in contrast to unanticipated and unintended effects which are instances where the situation is no longer under the command of those with power.

Some may object and say that intentional efforts to influence others often produce unintended as well as intended results. Unintended results of power should still be the responsibility of the person or group utilizing power. After all a dominating and overprotective mother does not intend to feminize the character of her son, yet this is what often happens. Isn’t she still responsible, regardless of her intentions? The effects others have on us, unintended by and even unknown to them, may influence us more profoundly than direct efforts.

To insist that power can be validly imputed to an actor only when she produces intended and foreseen effects on others does not consider that she may so also produce a wide range of far more significant unintended and unforeseen effects. Effects that are foreseen but not intended count as exercises of power. Those events which are unanticipated and unforeseen are not the responsibility of the power subject. To claim full responsibility for all effects, intended, anticipated and foreseen, unanticipated and unforeseen is to attribute a divine, all-knowing power to the powerholder and make the concept of power strident and unrealistic. Pluralists are most likely to attribute to powerholders good intentions and the negative consequences of their power to accidents or misunderstandings.

Power wealth and privilege

Having power is deeper than having wealth and prestige. Power uses wealth and prestige to maintain itself and achieve its ends. Wealth is a form of economic resources and privilege will usually go with legitimacy or sexual resources. But power can certainly be successful without them, by using some combination of the other power bases.

Potential vs latent power

Potential power and latent power are also very close, but valuable distinctions can be made. Potential power may or may not be used. When it is not used it has no impact on the anticipated reactions of others. An example is a wealthy miser who chooses to conceal his fortune. Another is someone who has a secret arsenal in his cupboard but does not use it. Latent power has anticipated reactions built in which it may have on others without the power holder having issued a command. Both elite and class theories are more likely to be sensitive to these subtleties.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post The Social Anatomy and Dynamics of Power: Bases, Depth, Scope, and Dimensions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Part I – Pre-History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Waking Up

In 2001 Barbara had her awakening to the disasters that capitalism caused. This started as part of the 9/11 events, beginning after the response to the supposed attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It became immediately clear the US would respond to the attacks with military action against whatever country seemed most vulnerable and had access or proximity to resources, in this case oil. The attacks were supposedly coordinated by al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group founded by Osama bin Laden and headquartered in Afghanistan. We firmly believed, with documented evidence, that the US attacked Iraq instead even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks. The US wanted control of Iraq because of their large reserves of oil. In fact, they were the second largest oil exporting state at that time.

As soon as the news came of the World Trade Towers being hit, Bruce said that something was fishy. From that time forward Barbara’s political life began. Watching the news was surreal and terrifying. Over and over again, images of the towers collapsing were televised. Talk of war began almost immediately, with George “W” Bush putting the blame on Iraq – with absolutely no proof. What was even more alarming was watching how people reacted to it. So many of them jumped on the bandwagon of war.

Making signs

Shortly after the attack Bruce – who had been a socialist for 30 years – talked Barbara into going to her first demonstration. Together we made signs to bring with us – “No War on Iraq”, “War is not the Answer”. Making the signs was so much fun. We got old cardboard cartons from the grocery stores along with some long lightweight sticks from lumber stores to hold them up. We brainstormed ideas for what to write. Bruce’s signs always had much more content than Barbara’s. Barbara went for the fewer words, the better.

First demonstration

The gathering, or demonstration, was held in Palo Alto, CA, just outside the Stanford University Campus. We had to park our car some distance from the crowd, and Barbara felt self-conscious carrying our signs. A radical political science faculty member, Joel Benin, who was pro-Palestinian, gave an impassioned speech. It was so sane, so true. People around us began chanting and we joined with them – NO WAR – NO WAR. This wasn’t a big demonstration, only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was in agreement that we could see where this drive to war was going, and we wanted to try to stop it. Barbara didn’t fully grasp the full implications of where the US was headed or what would be her involvement in the fight to stop it. Ultimately, that was the beginning of her journey to socialism.

Barbara has already written about much of this in My Journey to Socialism, some of which we’ve quoted here, which began after these attacks. Bruce was so happy to see her waking up.

Attending anti-war demonstrations

We went to anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland, chanting “No Blood for Oil”. Many of the demonstrations and meetings were organized by San Francisco ANSWER, an anti-war group formed in San Francisco shortly after 9/11. On March 20, 2003, we marched with tens of thousands of people to protest the war on Iraq that Bush started that very day. We shut down the city. Aside from ANSWER, there seemed to be no large, unified movement to take action against the existing paradigm of US imperialism and capitalism. That is, there was no large movement until the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 which was designed to protest income inequality and the use of influence of money in politics by occupying public spaces.

2004 – 2011 Looking for a Foothold

During this time period, we were searching for the best place for us to fit in and work towards changing the existing capitalist system. We had a book club together, just the two of us. We read and discussed The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Gregg Palast, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, The powers That Be, and Who Rules America, both by G. William Domhoff. We met every other week on the weekends for 2 hours. This helped to develop Barbara’s understanding of capitalism.

In 2008 the economic crash hit almost everyone.  We each lost ¼ of our savings in our IRA accounts, even though we had our money invested in socially responsible companies. Since this was money we hoped to use to supplement Social Security, this was a very personal wake-up call, not just for us, but for many. Were we witnessing the collapse of capitalism, and its effects on ordinary people?

In 2009 we attended a KPFA townhall meeting. KPFA was our local radio station, representing a mix of New Deal liberals and Social Democrats. They featured people like Amy Goodman, Sasha Lilly, C.S. Soong, and Bonnie Faulkner. At that meeting Bruce spoke about why KPFA is supporting the Democratic Party. When the meeting was over, he was approached by a labor organizer who wanted to start an organization to try to coordinate the public education unions. We stayed with this group for about a year, attending meetings about once a month, but nothing ever came of it, so we left.

Part II – 2011 – 2012 – Turning Point – Occupy

Excitement of General Assemblies:

We were happy to see Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland blossom in October of 2011 which lasted until the spring of 2012. We initially attended assemblies at the amphitheater in Frank Ogawa Plaza, right on the doorstep of Oakland City Hall. In San Francisco they were near the Ferry Building and at the bottom of the financial district.

The General Assembly (GA) meetings in both San Francisco and Oakland were electrifying. There were some extremely skilled facilitators. The GAs met every day and discussed how to regulate the public space that they had occupied and integrate the homeless community, which turned out to be a very difficult task. In San Francisco there were people who rode on a ferry that would stop by and watch the meetings. This was a good way to draw people in. Some of the members of the organizing committee of Occupy led tours around the Occupy camp to combat the propaganda against it.

Shutting Down the Port of Oakland

November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland coordinated to shut down West Coast ports to make a statement that we would not go back to “business as usual”. The shutdown was a way of protesting the treatment of longshoremen and truck drivers, who were forced to work as independent contractors. They were then fired by port owners EGT and Goldman Sachs for wearing union t-shirts. We marched with 200,000 others from Oscar Grant Plaza to the ports. While the ILWU did not openly support the blockade, the rank and file and many former labor leaders did. Clarence Thomas, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU, was fully committed to this blockade, as he had been for many past blockades. We’ll never forget the power of the first speech we heard from him which began – “I’m Clarence Thomas – the REAL Clarence Thomas”. Jack Heyman, also with the ILWU, was another powerful and persuasive speaker.

The Challenges of the Working Committees

We joined some of the committees, but we noticed there was a real gap in ages in the members. The overwhelming majority of people were in their 20s, with the exception of the Committee for Solidarity with Labor. There were virtually no people in their 30s and 40s and only a handful of people like us in our 50s and 60s. We were both working full time and tried to join committees that would work with our schedules, but the organizers kept changing the days and times of the meetings. It seemed like, at best, most of the Occupy participants worked part-time or might have been upper middle-class people whose schedules were more flexible. The committees were not very solid.

People would float in and out. Any group could start a committee – even conservative committees like those who wanted to work with merchants were allowed. Committees were dissolved without letting the Occupy leadership know so you could join a committee and discover that it no longer existed. We found many of the meetings off-track and with members who didn’t have the basic social skills like asking a person “How are you? How are things going?” They lacked skills for building solidarity with strangers like tracking things a person may have told them and following up with a question like “what’s happening with that project you were working on?” They are skills like showing up to meetings on time and remembering to tell others if a meeting is cancelled. The Occupy movement was the best and the worst of anarchism.

Monday Night Occupy Meetings in the Women’s Building

When the police drove Occupy in SF and Oakland away from Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and the area outside the Federal Reserve building in SF the Occupy organizers decided to meet indoors. Speakers were arranged every Monday night to talk on various political and economic topics. On average, 50-75 people attended. We noticed how the cliquishness of Occupy in the public are continued into the events in the Women’s Building in SF. Bruce told Barbara that when he was meeting with the organizers of an economic forum that Barbara was standing by herself. Nobody introduced themselves or tried to introduce themselves. These folks were calling themselves socialists and yet they lacked the most elementary friendliness to others who were on the same page. We decided it was then that we felt we needed to stop trying to join other organizations and start our own.

Part III – History of Socialist PBC

2012 – 2014 Building Political Documents and Our Website

We began to develop our own organizational documents, including a manifesto, mission statement, our attitude towards politics, and developed a political practice. At first that seemed like a lot of work to Barbara, and she also wondered how we would get people to join us. We had many meetings, just the two of us, to hash out the development of our perspective. Our main purpose was to provide a forum for exposing capitalism and spread the word to the public.

In spite of this challenging work, the creation of this site was so much fun. The first area we wanted to cover included telling people who we are and what we’re about. It included our mission statement – which was to become one of many eddies for:

  • “Exposing the predatory, incompetent, and irrational practices of capitalists to direct human social life.
  • Engage in collective political actions that throw a monkey-wrench into and slow down or disrupt the profit-making mechanisms of the system.
  • Weave and expand the fabric of a growing body of workplaces under worker self-management.”

Barbara switched from full-time to part-time work, allowing her more time to work on developing our book clubs that were focused on educating people about the reality of capitalism and the havoc it’s wrecked in the world. From 2012-2014 we tried to do outreach by having in-person book groups.

In April 2014 our first step was to create a website, Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Through our Occupy contacts we found a wonderful tech guy named Jeremy who, with our input, created the website that we still have today. Our baby was gestating. It was scary for Barbara to learn how to manage a website. While she had considerable work experience using numerous platforms, managing a website is a whole other ballgame. At a ridiculously low cost, Jeremy built our WordPress site. He patiently showed Barbara the basics and was the best tech teacher we have been able to find since then. He never spoke to her in tech-speak. Sadly, he has disappeared from our lives, even though we’ve tried hard to reach him. Since then, we have struggled to find someone to help us with our site, as well as with social media.

In November 2014 we wrote our first post – titled The Collapse of Capitalism. In it you will see that our economic situation has only gotten worse since then. In addition to all the things we listed, we’re now dealing with the economic fallout of Covid, hyper-inflation, and a rush to war with Russia.

We added a slider at the top of our page that, in addition to The Collapse of Capitalism, included the Personal Impact of Crisis. In that section we asked the question “What caused the crisis?” We gave 4 reasons for this. We then proposed “Making adjustments within the system” asking 6 questions of readers. Finally, we asked the question “Are there alternatives”?

The next section was titled Alternatives to Capitalism. We gave examples of workers’ self-management, workers’ control, and worker cooperatives – all of which currently exist and often are more successful than capitalist businesses.

The next section was titled History of Workers’ Councils so readers could see this is not just an unrealistic pipe dream. There is a 150-year history of worker self-management.

Finally, we included a section titled Local Workplace Democracy that allowed readers to learn about some of the local cooperatives in the US.

On our site we included sections on Our Manifesto, Our Process Politics, Our Mission Statement, Calendar of Radical Events, Submission Guidelines, Films, Books, Our Mythological Story, Our Allies, and Getting Involved.

2014 – 2016 Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work

Around the same time, Richard Wolff, the Marxist political economist, began to give public talks about the crisis in capitalism and workplace democracy as an alternative. In one of our book clubs, we began reading his book, Capitalism Hits the Fan. We attended one of several talks by Wolff and met our soon-to-be comrade, K.J. Noh, who was petitioning for some local cause. We asked him to join our book group and he did, adding an international perspective from his own personal experience of growing up in South Korea. We also discovered he was an extraordinary writer. We cited some of his publications on our site. One of the best was “The Economic Myths of Santa Claus“, published in CounterPunch on Christmas day, 2014.

After a year in our book clubs, which drew between 4 and 6 people, K.J. said to us that the book clubs really were not the way to go in this day and age. He said we needed an electronic presence. He recommended 3 newsletters we could write for and said our focus must be international in order to keep his interest. We followed his suggestions, and our website and FB page likes grew.

We also became involved with Richard Wolff’s Democracy at Work project in 2014. This was an organization developed by Richard Wolff that had chapters in numerous cities and states to support and teach people about the theory and viability of worker cooperatives to combat capitalism by democratizing our workplaces. People were either encouraged to study cooperatives, provide educational forums for cooperatives, or even start a cooperative.

Why We Left Democracy at Work

We discovered that Democracy at Work was very loose in its structure. People like us who were long-time socialists were mixed in with people who neither cared nor knew nothing about socialism, and simply wanted to start a small business. Many of the groups throughout the country were uneven in terms of their commitments and we were disappointed that Rick did not take a firmer stand in directing what we were doing. In fact, the management of these groups was left to someone else, and Rick had very little engagement with the groups.

2016-2022 Coming into Our Own

Social Media Ups and Downs – FB and Twitter

Since Jeremy set up our website, we have had consistent problems finding someone to help us. Jeremy was so good at explaining things clearly, teaching us how to create posts and perspectives, add to our pages and change our images. Since that time – in 2014, Barbara has mostly figured stuff out on her own and has become our house techie. WordPress is not a user-friendly platform and learning how to manage it is not obvious or intuitive. We need a professional, who we’ve only recently found, who can help us navigate that.

Someone who earlier helped us enormously was Sameer, who lived close to us in Oakland. He was also great at explaining things in non-tech speak. However, he’s moved on to bigger and more lucrative projects. We’ve since discovered that it’s very hard for technical experts to be able to communicate to non-experts in an understandable way what they’re trying to do – or trying to teach us to do.

Sameer introduced us to Susan Tenby in 2016 – who was able to help us with our social media. She taught us how to make our Facebook and Twitter pages more visible and appealing. We are so lucky to have found Susan. We were a small, community organization trying to get our message out. When we started working with Susan our visibility was very low. Susan did a comprehensive audit of where our social media stood when we started working with her and helped us track its rapid change. We were not getting a whole lot of attention on our website or through our social media. She gave us a crash course on how to turn that around and in a very short period of time our visibility skyrocketed. Each session with her was packed with techniques and ideas we never would have known about.  She’s also terrific at adapting to each individual’s learning style.

Susan also introduced us to Colleen Nagel, an SEO expert and digital marketing. These terms were completely unfamiliar to us. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and is the process used to optimize a website’s technical configuration, content relevance and link popularity so its pages can become easily searchable, more relevant, and popular, and as a consequence, search engines rank them better. In other words, it’s the process of making a website better for search engines, like Google. We began to understand how to make more sense of our analytics, although we’re still struggling to figure out WHY our followers like some of our posts and tweets better than others.

Where we needed help was in translating the analytics into verbal meaning. The deeper step, after understanding what these numbers mean, was to understand the causal dynamics which produce an increase or decrease in viewers and attention span. The next step was to develop a plan for increasing the number of followers after we were able to analyze what’s actually happened up to then. We never felt that we got that help

All of this cost money, of which we didn’t have a lot. We have never asked for donations or “supporters” for our site. Barbara’s income at that time consisted of a small retirement fund, Social Security, and a modest IRA. Bruce worked as an adjunct faculty member. As he’s written in his article “Capitalist Economic Violence Against Road Scholars: Now You’re Hired, Now You’re Not” his income was never completely stable and, of course, they paid adjuncts at a much lower rate than they paid faculty. In fact, today there are adjuncts who are living in their cars because they can’t afford to pay rent. We simply couldn’t afford to pay what Colleen was charging.

We then moved on to 2 more people whose entire focus was to install SEO optics. While we got some help from this, we found that both of them explained things in tech-speak and were not easy to communicate with.

Finally, we tried working with Liz and her sister. Liz was an editor of one of Bruce’s books and claimed to have some technical skills. But she didn’t have a Mac like we do and was not good at explaining things so that wasn’t much help. Her sister did have a Mac and was good at explaining things but worked full time, had small kids and was erratic in her response time.

Flying High

Between 2014 and 2016 we worked hard on learning how to get our message out through Facebook and Twitter. We learned how to “boost” our articles, Facebook’s language for paying them to promote it. We were able to select what type of audience we were trying to reach and where they were likely to be geographically. As we started to boost articles either we or one of our comrades had written, we began getting a lot more attention on Facebook. Our Facebook boosted posts for our articles ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 readers. A couple of them reached 20,000. Between 2016 and 2019 we were getting about 1,000 page likes a year, reaching thousands of people each week. At that point we had gained a total of 3,400 page likes.

Twitter was much slower to get off the ground. We began to understand the importance of hashtags and which hashtags were more likely to get attention. We also came to see the importance of liking, commenting on and retweeting the tweets of people who were following us. Our followers have increased steadily since we’ve been doing this. However, we still lag behind the attention we were getting on Facebook, and we would like to understand why.

Facebook Attempts to Clip Our Wings

In early 2020 Facebook stopped allowing us to boost our articles. The reason they gave was that since we are posting “political content” we must be registered as a political organization with the IRS. As you can imagine, we did not want to do that. When Facebook first started doing this, we were able to mount arguments that not all of our articles were, in fact, political. Well, of course they were, but not “political” in the way they were framing it. After a while, they simply stopped allowing us to boost them at all, no matter what our argument was. About the same time, we noticed that our typical daily reach (how many people saw the article) was shrinking dramatically. Whereas our daily reach used to be in the thousands, they are now in the hundreds. The same thing has happened with our engagements (how many people actually look at our post or click on a link we’ve provided) Our total page likes have gone from an average of 30 a month to less than 10. That’s because the only people who see our posts are the ones who have already liked our page! Our reach now is about one third of what it used to be. We have read that the same dramatic drop happened to World Socialist Website, The Greanville Post, and many other socialist sites.

Our Work Schedules for PBC

Since the very beginning, we each put in a minimum of 15 hours a week, often more, including Saturdays and Sundays. We have 2-hour weekly meetings to discuss what we’ve done during the week and what we want to do for the coming week. We give ourselves “homework”, then report in on the results of that homework at our weekly meetings. We jokingly call these meetings, our “Central Committee” meetings.

We write almost all of our own articles. After editing them and finding images for them we publish them and then also send them to other websites for publication. We have tried to find other comrades to write articles for publication for us also. We wanted to be able to include authors on our site beyond just the two of us. While we did, in fact, get a few people to write for us, it often required a lot of work on our part to help them frame their work. Of course, we did all editing the articles. We publish an average of one article every three weeks.

For our daily posts, every morning Bruce searches for an article online from a number of trusted sources, that usually focuses on the decay of capitalism. We also want very much to spread the word of the success of worker-owned cooperatives to the public. This lets them see that there is a way to work other than for “the man” and create a new society. He writes a post about the article, finds an image to go with it, and then sends it to Barbara. Barbara edits his post, puts it up on our site and shares it to FB and Twitter. We then share that article to our Facebook groups.

We have been doing all of this every day, every week, every month since we began our electronic outreach. This is a joy for us. We call Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism “our baby”. She’s now almost 10 years old and stable. She will be thriving when we can get the technical and social media support we need. When people ask us if we’re retired, we start laughing. Barbara always says she’s working harder than she ever did, she just doesn’t get paid for it! There are few things we would rather spend our time on than Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism.

Thank you for reading our history, and please consider joining us by reading and sharing our articles and posts. Together we are strong. Together we can change the world.

The post Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

It’s What the Babies Eat: Inflammatory Capitalism in Mush

Again, you can’t shuttle through the headlines, the so-called news, without having spasms and fits. You will not get journalists doing shit to really go after the capitalists, uh? Baby food. And these transnational Wall Street thieves, these stockholding companies, not even a slap on the wrist. So, if I as an unjabbed person goes into a public place, and then the rabid fascists find out, they then can call the cops, do a citizen’s arrest, and take my ass down, zip ties and all. But, do these billionaires and multimillionaires get hog-tied or frog-marched into court, and have their ill-gotten profits used for a reparations fund for all those babies? Dream on:

Baby Food Makers Kept Selling Products with Arsenic Levels Exceeding FDA-Approved Limits

HEADLINESEP 30, 2021

 

Baby food manufacturers allowed products contaminated with heavy metals to remain on store shelves — even after dangerous levels of the toxic chemicals were detected in their products. That’s according to a new congressional report released Wednesday, which found baby food makers Gerber and Beech-Nut failed to recall infant rice cereals tested to have arsenic levels above FDA limits.

This is how these felons roll, these dirty rotten propagandists, the smoke and mirrors crowd, the polluters, all those elites and money grubbers:

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Going from baby food to land, forests, indigenous rights, we can see more putridity of the White Savior Civilizations (sic) facilitating the land rapists and the water polluters. This is not outrageous in Can/Klan/Ada?

In Canada, a judge has ended an injunction granted to logging company Teal-Jones, which the court says was used to crack down on activists at the Fairy Creek watershed blockade in a way that violated their civil liberties and infringed on press freedom. Police have arrested over 1,000 land defenders, often violently, as they fight to protect the remaining trees in Vancouver Island’s ancient forests. The First Nations-led protest is Canada’s largest act of civil disobedience. Click here to see our coverage of this issue

It’s a simple formula, a simple illustration of how syphilitics the ruling class is, and here, “David Graeber’s bestselling book Debt: The First 5000 Years revolutionised our understanding of the origins of money and the role of debt in human societies. But intellectual revolutions take time, and David’s sudden and untimely death left this revolution unfinished. David’s widow Nika Dubrovsky has established ‘The Fight Club’ to keep David’s unique way of challenging conventional wisdoms alive. Each ‘Fight’ will pit leading advocates of different visions of how society functions against each other. The inaugural fight, to mark the first anniversary of David’s death, is a debate between the renowned economists Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and Michael Hudson, author of And Forgive Them Their Debts. Thomas Piketty wrote the preface to the tenth anniversary edition of Debt: the First 5000 Years. Michael Hudson’s anthropological research into the origins of money and debt in ancient Sumeria was the basis of much of David’s analysis in that book. Join us for an unmissable encounter between two celebrated and highly influential economic thinkers as they debate: what is money and what is debt? What are the most serious problems of today’s finance-capital economies? And what are the best remedies?”

Finally, the new brisk and slick predators, those capitalists, those impact bond folk, the algorithms, the mining of our minds, bodies, dreams, aspirations. Wrench in the Gears, a long one, with lots of sources to click on to enhance Alison’s work:

This past week someone sent me a paper on augmented cognition. As I read it, a number of pieces clicked for me about earlier research I’d done into executive function. I wanted to preserve the thread, so I captured it in the screen shots below. Follow along to see how grit and resiliency intersect with Metaverse navigation and soul theft.

Also, this week Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite briefed the Federal Reserve. Listen carefully to hear him setting up human capital bond markets in ed-tech, social emotional learning (SEL), nutrition, and tele-health via public-private partnerships with “philanthropic” predators.

This is accepted behavior, accepted “follow the science” bullshit; accepted state paid for university research; accepted elite school work and disgust? This is what Americans cannot handle:

So, how can lead in Flint’s water be a big deal? Arsenic in baby food? Arresting protestors in Canada? Think about how polluted media are, how broken universities are, and how confused and full of Collective Stockholm Syndrome the public is. This last comment is pretty telling:

The post It’s What the Babies Eat: Inflammatory Capitalism in Mush first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Seven Theories of Politics: The Rehabilitation of a Loaded Vice Word

The reason I wrote this article is to get people excited about the explanatory power of the word “politics” and to make sense of the world and how to change it. In Part I of this article, I brought up some of major confusions over how the word “politics” is used to describe actions as well as to define the word theoretically. I then posed 12 questions that any political theory would have to answer. The questions were:

  • Temporal reach: How far back into history does politics go?
  • Cross-species scope: Is politics an activity which is confined to the human species?
  • Spatial reach: Where is the arena in which politics takes place?
  • Political agency: Who does politics? Professionals or everyone?
  • Political action: How is politics different from strategies?
  • Interpersonal processes: How is politics different from convincing and persuading?
  • What is the relationship between politics and power? Does politics drive power or does power drive politics?
  • What is the relationship between politics and force or coercion? Are they interchangeable? Are they opposites?
  • Interdisciplinary span? To what extent is politics influenced by economics, technology, history?
  • What are the forces that shape politics?
  • What is the relationship between theories of politics and theories of political sociology?
  • What is the relationship between theories of politics and political ideologies?

Lastly, I identified seven political theories. In Part I, I focused on three political theories that occupy the centrist portion of the political spectrum: old institutionalists (mainstream political science), civil republicans and Weberian political economy. In Part II I discuss the remaining four theories: radical feminism and Marxism on the left and Rational Choice Theory and Bio-Evolutionary on the right. At the end of this article, there is a table which summarizes how each of the seven theories answers the twelve questions above.

Marxist political economy

Contradictory nature of politics in Marx

Marx’s notion about politics is contradictory. In some places he lumps together politics with religion, morals, laws and contrasts this to the economic “base”. However, in his more political writing on France, he seems to give politics more importance than in the first formulation above. In a formal sense, Marx thought that politics was a product of class conflict. In this sense, he saw the state as the concentration of political struggle. In a narrow sense, this would exclude egalitarian societies from politics because they didn’t have any classes. Yet Marx was very interested in lack of private property and in the decision-making processes of these societies. But he implies that decisions about property relations and deciding whether or not to move to a new location are not political.

Politics is inseparable from economics

In Part I, we saw institutionalists and civic republicans both accept the separation of politics from economics, and institutionalists think what they are doing is “political science”. We also saw Weberians will not make this separation, claiming that what they are doing is “political economy”.  Yet they will come down more on the side of the importance of politics. When Marx talked about economics, most explicitly in Das Kapital, Grundrisse, and in other works, he also did so out of a tradition called political economy. People like Adam Smith and David Ricardo would never separate economics from the politics of the day. Despite all these qualifications, we can safely say that for Marx there was no such thing as politics without economics. Marx would have heaped scorn on the disciplines of “political science” for ignoring the economy and the economists who pretend there is no politics in economics.

Historical sweep: politics as relative

Marx had the second broadest historical sweep of the evolution of politics because he points to changes from the relations of property going all the way back  from communal, to slave, to feudal, to capitalist property. This broad sweep of politics enabled Marx to see the relativity of politics in a way that institutionalists, civic republicans and even Weberians do not. For Marx, tribal societies practiced no politics because there were no social classes. At the visionary end of Marx’s social vision, under communism there would be no politics because the existence of social classes would be abolished. Unlike any other theoretician of politics Marx believed politics emerged at a certain, relatively recent point in human history and it would wither away at a later point. Marx’s perspective was not only historically depthful but his interdisciplinary reach included not only economics and world history, but also anthropology and sociology.

The state as passive

Both institutionalists and Weberians think that the state is very important for enacting politics, though for very different reasons. With civic republicans, Marx did not think the state was very powerful in its political activity. Marx saw the state as a relatively passive instrument of the capitalist class, its executive committee and its representative bodies as the “talking shop of the bourgeoisie”.

Place of violence in politics

Marx understood all class conflict as violent because there was a struggle between two classes for control over the natural resources, tools, finished products and power settings. The extraction of surplus value from the working class by the capitalist class with state backing gives rise to class struggle. So for Marx, as for Weber, all politics was violent, either using force explicitly or implicitly. At the same time, the forces that shaped politics were the various contradictions within capitalism.  The electoral politics of institutionalists or the civic debates in public of civic republicans do not give a voice to the working class. With Weberians, real politics takes place behind the scenes and these scenes will never include the working class. Political conflicts cannot be resolved democratically because the economic contradictions that underlie the capitalist system are not addressed.

Political sociology and political ideology

In political sociology, there are ‘functional” Marxists who do not make as much of class struggle in the area of politics as they make in trying to understand the economic contradictions of capitalism – its problems of accumulation. Yet there are others who emphasise the importance of how the class struggle impacts the accumulation process and how the contradictions under capitalism cannot be understood without taking this into account. In terms of political ideology, Marxists are all socialists – social democrats, Leninists and council communists – and all claim Marx’s writings though they differ bitterly over the interpretation of his work.

Rational Choice Theory

Neo-classical economics on the prowl of politics

We said earlier that both Institutionalism and civic republicanism accepts the separation of politics and economics as opposed to the Weberian and Marxian claim that they cannot be separated. Rational choice theory:

  1. first separates economic behavior from politics; and,
  2. takes its theory of economic exchanges and projects it onto politics. There is a kind of political unconscious.

The political realm is a kind of economic market place in which politicians pursue their interests to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs under circumstances where their resources are scarce and wants are many. Rational and collective choice understandings of politics are rooted in neoclassical micro-economics, except they are applied to non-market situations. Gary Becker even tried to apply microeconomic principles of traditional economics to families and human sexual life. He wanted to counter the moralistic, idealistic and romantic beliefs that family and sexual life are supposedly beyond economic calculations.

Unlike institutionalism and republicanism, rational choice theory argues that economically people are self-interested maximizers in their economic exchanges and this is not just a product of capitalism. Rather, they say a desire to “truck, barter and exchange” goes all the way back to hunter-gatherers.

Politics as the management of public goods

For rational choice theorists, the practice of politics is not about the process of governmental goal-setting, decision-making, and monitoring (institutionalists). Neither is it about public debate and compromise to achieve a virtuous outcome (Civic Republicans). Politics is bartering and haggling involving the public, not in a reasoned debate striving towards a collective good, but occurs under very specific public conditions. Based on a Lockean notion of social contract theory, when people are in small groups they behave rationally as individuals. But around issues that involve large groups, there is a danger of collective irrationality. What might those conditions be?

Situations that involve the management of public goods is the arena for politics. This means goods from whose benefits people cannot be excluded, such as clear air, or the conservation of resources. What differentiates political behavior from economic transactions is that in political behavior participants must be far-sighted. What to do about pubic goods does not dissolve after an immediate market exchange. It goes on indefinitely. This requires the presence of institutions and networks. Politics is a kind of market place for regulating the messy collective consequences of trading where the rate of profit is low and the long-term consequences accumulate.

Politicians are like commodities governed by the supply and demands of voting

Rational choice theorists treat politicians as if they were commodities in a market. Just as supply and demand expectations of consumers control the price of commodities, the supply and demand of people’s voting preferences drives the competition between politicians who are driven into and out of office. Rational choice theory believes in liberal democracy not in a political sense, the way the institutionalists do. Rather they believe in an economic democracy where political competition for votes leads to democratic results, just as Adam Smith believed that economic competition leads to social good.

All interpersonal processes like convincing or persuading are really economic exchanges. What would make them political is the presence of public goods. Rational choice theorists do not pay a great deal of attention to political power, because they tend to see political actions as subject to a democratic process of supply and demand. This theory pays little attention to the predominant place collective and cooperative activity – building a bridge, working on a ship – has in human social life.

Politics takes place at the point of exchange

Neoclassical economists claim that capitalists’ profits take place at the point of exchange between capitalist competitors and between individual capitalists and the marketplace. Marxian political economics argue that the most important place where profits are made is at the point of production. This means that it is in the exploitation of the worker. According to Marx, the worker produces far more social wealth – surplus value – than she receives as a wage.

Rational choice theorists ignore political processes that occur before the moment of exchange. That would be in the policy settings of think tanks, upper class social clubs, foundations, and congressional hearings which take place long before voting,  Just as they see economic profits being made at the point of exchange, rather than as Marxists do as at the point of production, so too, they see politics taking place at the point of exchange rather than at the point of political production.  The school of political sociology which fits snugly with rational choice theories are political pluralists. In terms of political ideology, rational choice theory goes best with right-wing libertarians.

Radical Feminist

Critique of the public-private separation of politics from the non-political

Radical feminism goes the furthest of any political theory in how far it carries politics into other areas of human social life. Feminists argue when institutionalists limit politics to the state and its institutions, these accepted boundaries for the arena of politics are not natural self-evident boundaries. Rather, they are the product of past political struggles which resulted in a public-private dichotomy in the first place. For them politics takes place in private settings, such as in families.

Limitations of individualist self

The liberal institutionalists have as its foundation a separate, autonomous, rational and self-subsisting self. This self is not simply describing and reflecting individual-social relations under capitalism, but it appears to be prescribing and structuring relations as if this were the only possible self. Institutionalists ignore the research that in non-capitalist societies, the self is better understood as “collectivist”.

Social contract theory

Once the individualist self is granted, the stage is set for social contract theory. Whether it be Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau, social contract theory starts with the premise that individuals really could subsist in a state of nature but as a calculating rational act, they agree that they would be even better off under social relations than in a “state of nature”. This social contract is required to create both civil society and the state. But even further back into archaic states, radical feminists argued it required sexual contract whereby domestic relations were not understood as political but private.

Capitalist state exploitation of women

Politics has been more exclusively limited to men and more self-consciously masculine than any other social practice. Given that women have conventionally been defined in terms of their relation to what is domestic, this has marginalized women as political actors. The unacknowledged foundation of male public politics is autonomous individuals. Meanwhile, what is ignored is the support and care received from women at home which is a) unpaid, and b) seen as not political. At the same time, the state denies their responsibility to intervene in family disputes. Until recently, it has excluded domestic violence as a category outside its political jurisdiction.

The socio-construction of humanity

Radical feminists reject all social contract theory, and along with Marxists, claim that human beings are social long before we become individuals. Without society, most fundamentally the relationship between mothers and their siblings, there could be no individuality. In fact, there is no such thing as an individual separate from society. It is society that transforms a biological organism – first into a human being and then into an individual. All social relations are political whenever there are resources at stake. Politics is the process by which people organize the production, distribution and use of resources to produce and reproduce their lives.

Gender is political

While agreeing with Weberian and Marxism claims that politics must include economics and history, radical feminist theory insists that the domestic politics of the family and sexuality not be excluded. It is not just in formal settings such as elections or civic debate that politics takes place, but in informal settings as well. The process by which a family decides whether to redecorate the kitchen or go on a vacation is political. When a man takes up two seats on a train with one seat occupied by his bag, and a woman standing up nearby does or does not tell the man to move his bag so she can sit down, that’s politics. When men whistle at women as they go by and women look the other way, that’s politics. Politics is embedded in language. When women end their statements as if they were questions when they are speaking in front of men, that’s politics. When women do emotional work not to appear too smart on a date to keep the man interested, that’s politics.

Power with vs power over people

Unlike all political theory, with the possible exception of Marxism, all power is not hierarchical. There can be power with people, as in egalitarian pre-state societies. There is also power over people as comes is developed in rank and stratified societies.

Power as the process

Generally, feminists are reluctant to make a separation between politics and power as means and end. An egalitarian political process has a good chance of leading to power with people. What feminists are very sensitive to is when a political process over the production, distribution and use of resources and is not egalitarian. When this is the case, it makes power vertical, power over people, no matter how noble the ends. So, when Marxist-Leninists ignore what the working class actually say it needs, when it suppresses the collective creativity of workers self-organizing attempts, its power is always vertical no matter what Leninists say about speaking for the working class.

All strategies are political

While there may be a fine line between strategizing and politics, radical feminists are likely to say it is a safer bet to assume that all strategies are political. Why? Because the cost of assuming some interaction is political when it is really strategic is not nearly as high as mistaking a move someone makes is strategic when it is really political. The same is true with any kind of influence. Convincing, persuading, and negotiating are better understood as a form of subtle politics with bribery, or force at the other extreme. For too long, women have been lulled into what appeared to be cooperative endeavors but were really manipulations of sorts. It is better to assume assertion or even aggression is the norm and then be pleasantly surprised if it turns out otherwise.

Political sociology and political ideology

In terms of political sociology, no school fits it exactly, but the political class model probably comes the closest. When it comes to political ideology, radical feminism is likely to be either social democratic or anarchist.

Biological Evolutionary

Most political theories deny politics exist among non-human species

Up until now, we haven’t addressed the question of the extent to which politics exists outside the human species. Both institutionalism and civic republicanism would explicitly deny that is possible because a) only in state societies can politics exist, or b) politics require reasoned debate which is beyond the reach of any other species. For Weberians, politics requires a state and a monopoly over the use of force which is beyond other animals. For Marxists, since animals do not have social classes (the examples of hierarchies among some of the other animals would not be deemed of the same order as social classes) there would be no politics. Rational choice theory would dismiss the possibility of politics among other animals because the whole basis of politics involves weighing the pros and cons of choices and imagining long-term consequences.

Being a social species with cooperation and sharing makes you a political species

According to Tiger and Fox (Imperial Animal), in order for politics to occur in material production, traveling together in herds and mothers taking care of their young is not enough for politics to take place. There has to be:

  1. a) a division of labor and cooperation in the process of providing food, building shelters and providing defense against attack; and,
  2. b) sharing of resources.

Since there is little or no division of labor in provisioning in other animal societies, there is no economic sphere in which to ask the question about politics’ relationship to economics.

Politics occurs in the cross-fire where genetics, socio-culture and individual learning conflict

Roger Masters takes it further, arguing that politics is the mechanism by which the human species reconciles conflicts between genetic, socio-cultural and individual learning loyalties. He points out that in any situation there are opportunities:

  • to be selfish and only consider yourself, making enemies along the way;
  • to look out for your relatives, which is kin selection and which results in nepotism;
  • to look out for your friends and forming alliances based on reciprocity; and,
  • to look out for strangers regardless of what they give back in return – altruism.

Power is not just about control over material production and control over policy but control over sexual reproduction

What all theories of politics have in common is that it is either a means to power or synonymous with power. Most, if not all, theories of power argue that power has a great deal to do with control over the provisioning of material resources: economics such as food, land, tools, commodities. Most political sciences connect power to control of social policy in the future, and maintaining it practically within its judicial system and police.

However, feminists rightly point out that resources are not just material production. They also include control over sexual resources of reproduction. If we consider that politics is the means of gaining power over the forces of production (economics) and public decision-making and reproduction, then biological evolutionary theory of sexual selection has a great deal to teach us about the  sexual politics of reproduction.

Sex and politics are traditionally separated

What is normally termed “sex” and “politics” are two sides of the same evolutionary coin. Yet what textbook on sexual behavior treats it as a political process? What primer on political science recognized that its subject matter is a derivative of a biological theme as fundamental as the struggle for reproductive success? What politician sees his own compulsive energy as fired by the ancient impulses of sexual competition? What lover sees his sexual process as pride being part of the necessary comportment of the successful mammalian politician? Sex and dominance, reproduction and power are so intimately linked that it is hard to disentangle one from the other when considering sex in its social setting.

Political economy and domestic economy

Unlike other theories of politics, for bioevolutionary politics involves two processes, a political economy and a domestic economy. Political economy involves material provisioning of natural resources to a society. It involves social production. The domestic economy involves sexual provisioning for mating and raising its children. It involves social reproduction.

The beginnings of a domestic economy

For the biological evolutionary perspective, the central political process is the process of sexual selection and sexual selection is based on bonding. A species can get by without much bonding. Flocks, herds, and schools of fish are notable for the interchangeability of their members. But like breeding systems with asexual reproduction, without bonding they restrict their options and reduce the amount of variety on which sexual selection can work. A true social system begins when animals respond differentially to other members of the species as individuals. They begin to select other members for specific kinds of relatively permanent interaction.

Before mammals were political about material resources, they were political about sexual resources. Sexual politics carries into all social species, most completely among chimps (Frans B. M. De Waal), dolphins and to a lesser extent among elephants. When animals form groups, they must organize themselves in terms of mating practices. As a result of fighting, posturing, cooperating, forming alliances and coalitions, males and females organize themselves into hierarchies. These hierarchies have built into them ground rules as to who can and can’t mate with who and under what conditions.

The domestic economy is about genetics, not sex.  While all males get a chance to copulate, only the more dominant get a chance to breed. The more powerful animal gets a better chance to perpetuate himself genetically. The dominate male is more or less sexually indifferent and will often let inferior males mount the females. Everyone copulates, but only dominates propagate. The dominant animal moves more freely, eats better, gets more attention, lives longer, is healthier and less anxious. On the other hand, the death rate among peripheral males at puberty is very high.

Hierarchies are biologically constituted

Bio-evolutionary theory agrees with feminism that family and sexual life is very political. But where most feminists take the existence of these hierarchies as socially and historically constructed and hope one day to abolish them, bio-evolutionary political theory would argue that these hierarchies are not simply products of society but are rooted in biology. The presence of gender stratification may enhance and amplify these hierarchies, but it doesn’t create them.

Furthermore, in response to Marxism, the creation of a communist society with social gender equality may reduce hierarchies but it wouldn’t abolish them, at least for the foreseeable future. Based on dominance hierarchies, the highest in the hierarchies would have access to the best food and the most comfortable nesting. However, that is not the same thing as having control over production. Darwinian political theory would say all social species are doing some kind of political jockeying come mating season.

What is the relationship between politics and natural selection?

There is, of course, competition for resources between species, but that is not political. Politics can only occur within a species in which fight or flight are not fruitful strategies.

The emergence of the state as an unusual problem to be explained

For neo-Darwinian politics, the emergence of the state is not the starting point of politics, but a problem that neither the traditional mechanisms of kin selection theory or reciprocity solves. What ecological, demographic, economic and technological problems arise that make it in the self-interest of most people to accept the subjugation, the asymmetrical production and distribution of resources that the state involves? Roger Masters offers a rational choice answer to the question. He argues that once collective goods emerge there is trade-off most members of society are willing to make between the benefits of irrigation systems, roads, trade, and the end of feuding that makes the subjection and increased alienation worth it.

Political agency, persuasion

There are no professional politicians in the non-human animal kingdom as far as I know, although De Waal makes some amusing cases for some chimps being more political than others. De Waal makes some interesting points about the power of body language to impact others, although sometimes it might be persuasion and sometimes force or the threat of force. I suspect bio-evolutionary politics would define politics as the strategy within a species to mate and maximize genes across generations.

Bio-evolutionary theory in political sociology and political ideology

It is difficult to place biological politics in the field of political sociology. Political managerial might be closest. A knee-jerk reaction of feminists and Marxists would be quickly to tar-and-feather any biological theory as the political ideology of fascists because of the legacy of social Darwinism. But modern bio-evolutionary theorists are generally hip to its past, and are sensitive to the racial and sexual implications it may have. A friend of mine did a survey among evolutionary psychologists to find out what their leanings are in terms of political ideology. In general, they were liberal. There are also a significant number of women in the field of evolutionary psychology who identify themselves as feminists.

Conclusion: Grand Definition of politics

In making a living, we are co-producers. At the very heart of our social existence has always been a wide range of conscious and planned activities involving the purposive use and production of resources for given ends. People in groups could more easily fell trees, and place them across gullies or streams, deploy hunting nets and chase animals into them if they planned together. In the process of planning there are disputes and debates about what policy to follow and how to achieve their aims.

Politics is:

  1. as an activity that consists of the process of social goal-setting, decision-making and monitoring activities which produce cooperation, negotiation and conflict; and,
  2. as an analysis, politics consists of the study of the provenance, origins, forms, resource allocation (human skills, animate sources of energy, inanimate sources of energy), distribution, and control and consequences of power.

Please see Table A which compares the seven theories of politics across twelve categories of questions. The table closes with each theory’s definition of politics.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Seven Theories of Politics: The Rehabilitation of a Loaded Vice Word first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Does New Age Mysticism REALLY Explain Quantum Physics? Communist Theory of Mind Says No

Orientation

From Marxism to de Chardin, General Systems Theory to Buckminster Fuller

Around 1975, it dawned on me that the revolutionary times of the 1960s were not coming back. I still considered myself a council communist but I felt something was missing. I thought Marxism needed to be seen within a larger framework. I began to look for a perspective that located societies as part of cosmic evolution. My first stop was Teilhard de Chardin. I was swept away by The Phenomenon of Man and continued with a few of his other books. I found other authors with an evolutionary perspective like Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Conscious Evolution and Gerald Heard’s Five Ages of Man. I was also drawn to General Systems Theory and especially liked Bogdanov’s Tektology because as a Marxist, he framed human societies as another level of cosmic evolution. People like Oliver Reiser (Cosmic Humanism) saw humanity as part of larger globalization of society. Probably most powerfully, I was drawn to the work of Buckminster Fuller. Here was a guy trained in the hard sciences who had a vision of a new society based on the wise use of technology. What all these theories had in common was they were optimistic about the future of humanity. I didn’t care so much at time that there might be contradictions between these theories and those of Marx and Engels. It wasn’t until about five years later that I came to terms with these contradictions.

Flirting with Eastern Mysticism

But that wasn’t the end of it. I soon found myself in the misty waters of New Age mysticism without really realizing it. In 1975, a book came out called The Tao of Physics which was soon followed by another book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters. Both these books were written by physicists who took full advantage of the American counter-cultural swooning over Eastern mysticism. We were told that quantum physics was revealing a sub-atomic world that resembled the teachings of ancient Eastern mysticism. I was not alone among Marxists exploring these realms. My best Marxist friend, who knew more about Marx than anyone I had ever met, had been practicing Yogananda’s form of meditation for years. He joined me to read Capra’s book.

What these New Age physicists were saying was that because subatomic particles were unstable (both a wave and a particle) the observer had to make a “decision” as to which to measure. If you couldn’t decide whether a subatomic particle was a wave or a particle without a state of consciousness, that meant that consciousness was at the heart of matter. We were told that western science has finally caught up with the wise ancients of the East. At a liberal arts, New Age university I taught at, we had a science teacher who taught a class called “Quantum Physics and Eastern Mysticism”. No one in the class was required to take any preliminary physics classes in order to take the class. We had students walking around the campus holding court about the mysteries of quantum mechanics when most of them knew nothing about physics. Here we have the New Age spirituality.

How prevalent is this New Age mysticism?

But why am I writing an article about something that happened 35-40 years ago? Two reasons:

  1. To show that the same thing is going on today with New Age gurus still claiming that the New Physics confirms eastern mysticism. Doing a search in Amazon under the word “quantum” I found 30 books on the first page with titles such as Quantum Physics and the Power of the Mind; Quantum Consciousness: Journey Through Other Realms; Quantum Consciousness; The Guide to Experiencing Quantum Psychology; Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness; The Shamanic Path to Quantum Consciousness; Quantum DNA Healing; Merging Spiritually with Quantum Consciousness; Cosmic Consciousness and the Healing with the Quantum Field. All these books are dolled up in colorful, space-age covers.
  2. Mystical explanations in physics were also prevalent over 100 years ago. In the late 19th and early 20th century Russia, Lenin battled what he considered mystical ideas about physics that he feared were taking over the Bolshevik party. We will discuss the value and the shortcomings of his attempt to rescue materialism and its theory of mind from the swoon of phenomenology and other idealist theories.

My claim

My claim in this article is that a Vygotskian socio-cultural nature of mind does a better job at combatting mysticism than Lenin’s reflective theory of mind. For this article, I will be referring to Pannekoek’s book Lenin as Philosopher; Victor Stenger’s The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology and David Bakhurst’s book Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy: From the Bolsheviks to Evald Ilyenkov.

Types of Philosophy

How do we understand the relationship between sub-atomic quantum physics and how the human mind engages it? Before addressing mystical theories directly, we should review the basic types of philosophy.

Naïve realism

For the overwhelming majority of people in the West, the objective world is independent of the mind. The mind tries to know how the world works by taking pictures of reality and making copies of it. Biophysical nature is comprehensible and existed before mental life emerged. So too, it is claimed the mind is comprehensible and is relatively reliable about recording what really exists in the world.  In philosophy, this double way of making sense of reality and mind is called “naïve realism”. It is only when specialized philosophy gets hold of the relationship between nature and the mind where things get complicated.

Idealism

Various philosophers, in part because their occupation is thinking and reflection, tend to get carried away with the power of mental life. When they ask questions about the relationship between nature and mind, their answers go way beyond naïve realism. Some philosophers like Plato saw the natural world as filled with disorder, complexity, dead ends, and constant change as well as being evil. Plato thought that whatever the ultimate reality was, it was orderly and eternal. When Plato searched for what was orderly and eternal, he found his answers in mathematics. And, of course, mathematics was the product of the collective mind, humanity. So, for Plato, what was ultimately real was mathematics. Plato also believed that this orderly and eternal world was good, beautiful and true. The material world of nature was an imperfect replica of what Plato called the eternal forms.

Many other western philosophers also got carried away with mental life. Some said matter or nature was an illusion, the product of cosmic mind. Others like Spinoza said that there was a single substance from which both nature and the mind were derived. Others like Descartes said that nature and mind were independent substances that interacted with each other. Others said nature and mind were inseparable and that you could know nature as she really is through the mind. Kant said our mind does not take pictures of reality. Rather it superimposes categories of thought on nature, and we can understand nature through the categories. We can never know nature independent of those categories. For Kant we can never know “things-in-themselves”.

Skepticism about mind

Just as philosophers like Plato claimed that nature was not self-evidently true but only an appearance, so too, epistemological philosophers were skeptical that the mind simply took faithful copies of reality. The most extreme form of ancient skepticism claimed we could ever know anything beyond what was in our minds. Later, more moderate skeptics like Bacon, Locke and especially Hume and Berkeley said the mind has built in cognitive biases, prejudices, reasoning errors and language ambiguities that keep humans from seeing things clearly.  What all philosophers would agree on was that both nature and mind were harder to understand than naïve realism would present.

Materialism

There is also a school of philosophers who are called materialists and are in rough agreement with the naïve realist position. Materialists say matter is infinite, uncreated and eternal. It existed before the mind emerged with the brain and it will continue even if mind disappears. People like Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius had a sophisticated understanding of what matter was. Later emergent evolutionary materialists saw matter as having levels—such as physical, biological, and social. Materialists like Democritus also understood that the senses do not just take pictures of reality. The senses were seen as untrustworthy and needed to be corrected by reason.

Some of the cruder materialists thought of the mind as the secretions of the brain, just as bile is a secretion of the liver. With the slightest injury to the brain everything mental disappears, nothing at all remains in the mind. The material changes in the brain are thought to be the basis of psychology. All action in the surroundings produce changes in the brain and these produce thoughts. There was no distinction between the mind and the brain. There was no sense that society and history created the mind, and that mind mediated what happened between the brain and nature.

19th Century Determinism Crisis and Mystical Predators

Throughout most of the 19th century, scientists thought of nature as being more and more determined by physical laws. Natural events that occurred were the result of both necessity and probability (statistical laws). Nature at the meso level could be perceived through the five senses and matter was thought to be solids or liquids rather than gases. To a physicist, atoms were not abstractions but real, small, invisible particles, sharply limited, exactly alike for every chemical element, with precise qualities of mass and weight.  Concepts were nearly separated and the physical world was a clear system, without contradiction.

However, towards the end of the 19th century, quantum mechanics and relativity theory challenged the deterministic nature of science. Phenomenon were discovered that could be represented only by light, consisting of a stream of so-called quanta, appearing and disappearing through space. Physicists began to suspect that their physical entities, formerly considered reality behind the phenomena, were only images of abstract concepts. When you ask the physicist what it is that moves in such waves or particles, his answer consists of pointing to a mathematical equation. Now mass changes in the state of motion and cannot be separated from energy. Because in quantum mechanics, states of consciousness are inseparably involved in determining whether matter is a wave or a particle, mystics got into the act. “There” they said, “now we see that consciousness is at the root of matter.” It was just a hop, skip and a jump to saying the physical world itself is determined by consciousness.

Today, according to Victor Stenger, the dual nature of subatomic particles and waves is a material reality independent of consciousness. Consciousness is necessary if measurement of either is required. If no measurement is involved, the wave and particle nature is still there. It does not disappear as the mystics like to present. Niels Bohr once said that consciousness has nothing to do with quantum mechanics. The reality of a wave-particle characteristic is not brought into existence by consciousness. It was already there both before and after it is measured.

Ernst Mach

Mach’s original training was as a physicist. He was well read in philosophy, especially Hume and Berkeley, who appealed to sense data and common sense over metaphysical speculation over whether the world was ultimately made of mind or matter. Mach attempted to reduce all scientific and practical concepts including time, and knowing subjects to experiential field of sense data. He rejected as metaphysical and unscientific all forms not grounded in experience. Matter and mind are all derived concepts. The only thing we know directly is experience and all experience consists in sensations. Both objects and subjects are built from sensations. For Mach, the physical and psychical world consist of the same elements, only in a different arrangement. Mach accepted the external world as real, but he felt that the distinction between physics and psychic distinction of materialism was unnecessary metaphysics. His insistence on starting from sense data was done for methodological reasons within science.  He attempted to give methodological priority to positivism’s epistemology over its ontology.

But if matter and mind are never discussed independent of experience, there is a danger that the external world could be theorized as:

  1. an unknowable thing in itself;
  2. a spiritual idealist world; and,
  3. a world having no existence at all apart from the knowing subject.

As Pannekoek says:

Yet there is a certain ambiguity in Mach’s expression on the outer world revealing a manifest propensity towards subjectivism, corresponding to the general mystical turn in the capitalist world.  (106)

Lenin’s defense of materialism

Lenin understood very well that materialism had to be defended against mystical interpretations, and this is what he set out to do in his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism which he wrote in 1909.  He understood that the old deterministic nature of materialism based on the five senses was now a relative, not absolute distinction, depending on the level of reality being dealt. He also had to make sense of the fact that matter and energy was convertible. How can you be a materialist when a physicist is dealing with energy not matter? How do you answer mystical claims that matter has disappeared?

Lenin argued that what matters for materialism is not what the ultimate building block is. What matters is that matter and nature is independent of consciousness. Lenin maintained that the mind makes copies of reality (his theory of reflection) but this copy theory does not mean we have certain knowledge of the world or that mistakes and vagueness cannot occur in our knowing. He just meant that most of the time our copies of reality are good enough to have helped us survive. Lenin felt that the copy theory of the mind was the only out from mysticism.

Pannekoek argues:

Mach’s opinion that causes and effect as well as natural laws do not factually exist in nature but are man-made expressions of observed regularities is said by Lenin to be identical with Kant… To deny the objective existence of these laws means that denial of nature itself. To make man the creator of natural laws means to him to make human mind the creator of the world. (129-130)

Unlike Mach, Lenin argued that the categories of Space and Time were real properties of the objective world and not simply categories of the human mind. Right or wrong, Lenin thought Mach’s system was a rehash of Berkeley’s subjective idealism. Lenin thought Mach confused the problem of the new properties of matter with the old problem of the theory of knowledge. He felt that Marxist philosophers needed to preserve the philosophical function performed by materialism from its scientific role in providing particular explanatory framework for natural phenomena.

Criticism of Lenin

Pannekoek says Lenin accepted Newton’s model that there is absolute space and time. But Einstein refuted absolute time and space which Lenin did not address. Further:

He identified the real objective world with physical matter. Electricity too is objective reality? Is it physical matter? Our sensation shows us light; is it reality but not matter? Photons cannot easily be denoted as a kind of matter. (137)

The problem with Lenin’s copy theory is he gives no detailed discussion of how mental images copy physical objects, nor does he address the traditional objections to naïve realism. He has ignored more skeptical theories and even scientific epistemology about the limits of the mind that developed with Hume and Kant and beyond.

Socio-historical nature of mind

In his rush to defend materialism from being attacked by mysticism, without realizing it, Lenin accepted the same subjective epistemological framework as mystics and mechanical materialists had about the starting point of the mind. The epistemological framework for mystics is with the relationship between a spiritual world and an individual. For mechanical materialists, the relationship is between nature the biological individual. Where mystics and mechanical materialists differ is in the ultimate nature of objective reality. For mystics the ultimate reality is the spiritual world. For mechanical materialists it is biophysical nature. But they agree that subjectivity begins with the individual. For Vygotsky and the socio-historical school, in between the biophysical world and the individual mind is a socio-historical layer of reality. It covers the earth the way the lithosphere and biosphere does. It is akin to Vernadsky and Chardin’s noosphere. It is socio-historical objectivity which engages in an expanding feedback loop with nature. Individual subjectivity emerges from and interacts with the historical-social layer of reality. The individual mind does not engage nature directly, only indirectly.

What Lenin ignored in his epistemology was that the human mind does not engage nature directly. The individual mind does not even become a human mind until it is socialized and historicized. For dialectical materialists like Vygotsky, the human mind is created out of a socio-historical network from birth to death. Vygotsky, Leontiev and Luria claimed that psychological skills first originate through structural, meaningful, cooperative, and recurring through three phases:

  • local interpersonal relations between people;
  • these skills then get internalized as private; and
  • these skills are then reapplied to large social global contexts.

Please see my article on What is Socialist Psychology? for a longer discussion of these phases.

The main function of the mind is externally, not internally, driven. Primarily, the human mind is concerned with the collective engagement of transforming external objects through the laboring process in order to satisfy basic needs. Introspection or self-reflection is the second stage of this process, but it is not the main focus as it is with idealist mysticism.

For dialectical materialists the human mind is a function, not a substance (as it is for mystics) of highly organized material bodies – human beings. To say that the human mind is inseparable from society and history is not to say that other animals do not have minds. What it does mean is that without intense social life and verbal language, their minds are mostly imprisoned in the present. It is the socialization and historization of homo sapiens that is responsible for making the mind a human mind.

Before the emergence of the human mind, mind had an origin in nature, specifically the brain. The brain is an adaptive responsive to rapidly changing nature where instinct was a less and less reliable resource. There are non-social creatures without brains that have no mind. With the emergence of a central nervous system, animals developed brains. But it is only when animals have a social life and brains, that pre-human minds appear. Nature was physical, chemical and biological before the brain or the mind appeared. So, the mind is first a product of nature and later through the social and historical practice of human beings, the mind becomes a coproducer through society and history with nature. For materialists, there is no mind beyond nature, society or history. A dialectical materialist, unlike a mechanical materialist, does not reduce the mind to the brain. While the brain is a necessary condition for the mind, once the mind emerges through its building of a socio-historic layer of nature, mind becomes more than the brain.

 Idealist theories of the mind of everyday people

Contrary to this worldview, consciously or not most people combine a naïve realist picture of reality with idealist theories regarding the mind. They imagine that the human mind is autonomous from society and history. They are convinced the mind is a special property, beyond society and history. They believe that while the human mind may serve partly as an adaptive function in society and history, it is much more than that. Additionally, from the idealist viewpoint, the mind’s most important function is not interpersonal, but personal and self-reflective. Through introspection it can potentially find its real destiny which is to tap its otherworldly source, God. This is done through meditation, prayer, or other spiritual techniques. The idealist theory of individual mind is a product of a religious orientation to life. Please see Table A for a comparison between idealist, mechanical materialist, and socio-historical theories of mind.

Table A

Mystical, Mechanical Materialist, and Socio-Historical Theories of Mind

Category of comparison Mystical (Idealism) Mechanical Materialism Dialectical Materialism
Starting point Individual relationship to God Individual’s relationship to nature Society’ relationship to nature
Are there levels in reality? Yes. Matter, life, mind spirit, Aurobindo No, just one level primarily – physical Everything else reduces to matter Yes. Matter, life society, mind
How broad is matter?

 

Controlled by God – Not infinite or eternal Infinite and eternal Infinite and eternal
How active is matter? Spirit is immanent in matter and guides it along Matter is passive and determined by necessity and chance

 

Matter is self-active and creative
Relationship between mind and brain Minds can exist without brains The brain and the mind are interchangeable – Mind is an epiphenomenon

 

The brain is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the mind
What drives the mind?

 

 

Internally driven by self-reflection Externally driven and adapted to biophysical constraints Externally driven through laboring to adapt to socio-historical constraints

 

What is mind? Spiritual substance Secretion of the brain A function of the brain
Theoretical examples of what mind is Plato’s theory of form Lenin’s theory of reflection Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development
How important is society in determining human behavior? Unimportant – We are primarily spiritual beings with our home in the stars Unimportant – We are primarily biological beings Vitally important – We could not be human without social life
How trustworthy are the senses? Untrustworthy – Revelation introspective more trustworthy

 

Generally trustworthy and corrected by reason Generally trustworthy and corrected by reason
What is the nature of contradictions? Mistakes of the human mind Mistakes in the human mind Contradictions exist in nature, society, and the human mind
What is the emphasis in human activity? Spiritual learning through prayer, meditation. Individual adaptation Human socio-historical accumulating practice
How active are human beings? Active in the spiritual domain Passive and determined by bio-physical forces: sex, senses Active in socio-history as both products and coproducers of society
What is an illusion and what is real? Matter is an inferior replica or an illusion Matter is real and the spiritual world is an illusion Matter is real and spiritual world is an expression of social alienation
Theoretical philosophers Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, St. Thomas, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Leibniz, Bradley Democritus, Epicurus Lucretius, Descartes, Hobbes, Laplace, d’Holbach, Helvetius, La Mettrie, Lenin Heraclitus, Spinoza, Diderot, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Ilyenkov, Vygotsky

Why Are New Age Ideas So Popular in Yankeedom: A Socio-historical Checklist

Interest in parts of New Age thinking includes what are called paranormal phenomena such as ESP, clairvoyance, telepathy, astral projection, and homeopathy. In my previous article, The Political Economy of Preternatural Parapsychology I identified twelve materialistic reasons why mystical and New Age ideas are attractive to Yankees, offering hope and escape from the following problems I list here. Please see my previous article for a fuller explanation. Here they are:

  • The Decline of living standards in Yankeedom produces psychological reactance. This means parapsychology is devoted to individual freedom because real freedom is in decline.
  • Economic, political, and ecological life in the United States seem to be falling apart, and it is difficult for people to understand why.
  • There is a sense in which the current political system has little or nothing to do with democracy. There is a belief that the world is run by people behind the scenes.
  • Science has not delivered on its promise to make a better life for all.
  • People have an increasing sense of their personal lives being out of control with an unpredictable work-life and growing debt.
  • Cross-cultural surveys of happiness show people in the United States are not very happy.
  • There is a lack of security and unity in personal life and with the family.
  • People have trouble finding adventure and mystery in their current work life.
  • People in the United States seem so passive compared to people in other countries and are willing to put up with anything.
  • People fear death and cling to life at all costs.
  • Personal troubles don’t seem to have a single cause. Multiple causation and chance are unsatisfying answers.
  • Lack of universal health care makes hospital stays brief and gives doctors scant time to visit with patients.

Conclusion

New Age ideas about the relationship between mysticism and science were hot stuff by the mid-1970s, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.  My article began with an experiential description of how even a council communist Marxist such as I could get caught up in New Age ideas about the relationship between quantum mechanists and the human mind. Next, I suggested that these New Age ideas have had a long-lasting shelf-life. On the one hand, they are still prevalent 45 years later. On the other hand, mystical ideas about quantum mechanics began over 120 years ago at the end of the 19th century. I also briefly introduced philosophical systems to show what kind of theories mysticism is competing with. I identified the everyday use of what has been called “naïve realism” and contrasted it to idealism (mysticism), materialism, and skepticism.

Most of the article is devoted to understanding how the crisis in physics with quantum mechanics at the end of the 19th century led some physicists such as Ernst Mach to claim that philosophical categories like materialism, idealism, and time and space categories were outdated metaphysical abstractions. All we know is the sense data of our experience. Further, the deterministic nature of science was questioned because the foundation of quantum mechanics is uncertainty and chance. Some of the more scientifically oriented among the Bolsheviks thought Mach had a point.

Lenin had a fit. While Mach was no mystic, Lenin understood quite clearly that a mystical interpretation of quantum mechanics was possible and very dangerous for the forces of socialism to adapt. Because consciousness is an inevitable part of measuring subatomic particles, this led some thinkers to claim that consciousness lies at the heart of matter. Lenin presented his own naïve realism understanding of the relationship between matter and consciousness. It was insensitive to the 18th century philosophical criticisms made of naïve realism by Hume and Kant and, more importantly, Lenin accepted that the epistemology subject was an individual mind.

I contrasted Lenin’s mechanical materialism interpretation of mind with a socio-historical understanding of mind based on the work of Ilyenkov and Vygotsky. In this theory, the individual mind does not directly encounter nature. Individual mental life is mediated through a kind of socio-historical membrane. It is society and history that engage and interact with nature, not the individual. Without socio-history to draw sustenance from, there would be no individual mind.

Lastly, I raised the question of why mystical theories of matter are attractive at all. I argued that this interest is part of New Age thinking that includes what are called paranormal phenomena such as ESP, clairvoyance, telepathy, astral projection, and homeopathy. Using socio-historical analysis from a previous article I offered twelve reasons for their popularity.

The post Does New Age Mysticism REALLY Explain Quantum Physics? Communist Theory of Mind Says No first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Eleven Theses on Socialist Revolution

How should we think about “socialist revolution” in the twenty-first century? I put the term in scare-quotes because it can be hard to believe anymore that a socialist, or economically democratic, civilization is even possible—much less inevitable, as Marx and Engels seem to have believed. Far from being on the verge of achieving something like socialism, humanity appears to be on the verge of consuming itself in the dual conflagrations of environmental collapse and, someday perhaps, nuclear war. The collective task of survival seems challenging enough; the task of overcoming capitalist exploitation and instituting a politico-economic regime of cooperation, community, and democracy appears completely hopeless, given the overwhelming crises and bleak horizons of the present.

Some leftists might reply that it is precisely only by achieving socialism that civilization can save itself from multidimensional collapse. This belief may be true, but if so, the prospects for a decent future have not improved, because the timeline for abolishing capitalism and the timeline by which we must “solve” global warming and ecological collapse do not remotely correspond. There is no prospect for a national, international, or global transition to socialism within the next several decades, decades that are pivotal for addressing ecological crises. In the United States, for example, it took Republican reactionaries almost a century of organizing starting in the 1940s to achieve the power they have now, and this was in a political economy in which they already had considerable power. It isn’t very likely that socialists, hardly a powerful group, will be able to overthrow capitalism on a shorter timeline. If anything, the international process of “revolution” will take much longer. Perhaps not as long as the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but certainly over a century.

It can seem, then, naïve and utopian even to consider the prospects for socialism when we’re confronted with the more urgent and immediate task of sheer survival. However guilty capitalism is of imposing on humanity its current predicament, the fact is that we can make progress in addressing the environmental crisis even in the framework of capitalism; for example, by accelerating the rollout of renewable and nuclear energy, dismantling the fossil fuel industry, regulating pesticides that are contributing to the decimation of insect populations, experimenting with geoengineering, and so on. These goals—and their corollaries, such as defeating centrist and conservative candidates for political office—should be the most urgent priority of left-wing activists for the foreseeable future. If organized human life comes to an end, nothing else matters much.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t just forget about socialism for now, because it remains a distant goal, a fundamental value, and organizing for it—e.g., “raising the consciousness” of the working class—can improve lives in the short term as well. So it is incumbent on us to think about how we might achieve the distant goal, what strategies promise to be effective, what has gone wrong in the past, and what revisions to Marxist theory are necessary to make sense of past failures. We shouldn’t remain beholden to old slogans and formulations that were the product of very different circumstances than prevail today; we should be willing to rethink revolution from the ground up, so to speak.

I have addressed these matters in a book called Worker Cooperatives and Revolution, and more concisely in various articles and blog posts. Here, I’ll simply present an abbreviated series of “theses” on the subject of revolution that strike me as commonsensical, however heterodox some of them may seem. Their cumulative point is to reorient the Marxian conception of socialist revolution from that of a completely ruptural seizure and overthrow of capitalist states—whether grounded in electoral or insurrectionary measures—followed by a planned and unitary reconstruction of society (the “dictatorship of the proletariat”), to that of a very gradual process of economic and political transformation over many generations, in which the character of the economy changes together with that of the state. The long transition is not peaceful or smooth or blandly “reformist.” It is necessarily riven at all points by violent, quasi-insurrectionary clashes between the working class and the ruling class, between international popular movements seeking to carve out a new society and a capitalist elite seeking to prolong the current one. Given the accumulating popular pressure on a global scale, which among other things will succeed in electing ever more socialists to office, the capitalist state will, in spite of itself, participate to some extent in the construction of new economic relations that is the foundation of constructing a new society—even as the state in other respects continues to violently repress dissenting movements.

But the process of building a new economy will not be exclusively statist (despite the statism of mainstream Marxism going back to Marx himself). Transitions between modes of production take place on more than one plane and are not only “top-down.” In particular, as civilization descends deeper into crisis and government proves inadequate to the task of maintaining social order, the “solidarity economy,” supported by the state, will grow in prominence and functionality. A world of multiform catastrophe will see alternative economic arrangements spring up at all levels, and the strategies of “statist Marxism” will complement, or be complemented by, the “mutual aid” (cooperative, frequently small-scale, semi-interstitial) strategies of anarchism. These two broad traditions of the left, so often at each other’s throats, will finally, in effect, come together to build up a new society in the midst of a collapsing ancien régime. Crisis will, as always, provide opportunity.

1

Successful socialist revolution, meaning the creation of a society that eliminates differential ownership and control of economic resources and instead permits democratic popular control of the economy, has happened nowhere on a large scale or a “permanent” (“post-capitalist”) basis. Whether in Russia, China, Cuba, or elsewhere, the dream of socialism—still less of communism—has never been realized. According to Marxism, indeed, the very fact that these were isolated islands under siege by a capitalist world indicates that they signified something other than socialism, which is, naturally enough, supposed to follow capitalism and exist first and foremost in the “advanced” countries. The fact that these “socialist” experiments ultimately succumbed to capitalism is enough to show that, whatever progress they entailed for their respective populations, they were in some sense, in the long term, revolutionary abortions.

2

Marx was right that there is a kind of “logic” to historical development. Notwithstanding the postmodernist and empiricist shibboleths of contemporary historiography, history isn’t all contingency, particularity, individual agency, and alternative paths that were tragically not taken (because of poor leadership or whatever). Rather, institutional contexts determine that some things are possible or probable and others impossible. Revolutionary voluntarism, the elevation of political will above the painfully protracted, largely “unconscious” dialectical processes of resolution of structural contradictions and subsequent appearance of new, unforeseen conditions that are themselves “resolved” through the ordinary actions of millions of people, is a false (and un-Marxist) theory of social change. If the world didn’t go socialist in the twentieth century, it’s because it couldn’t have: structurally, in the heyday of corporate capitalism (monopoly capitalism, state capitalism, imperialism, whatever one calls it), socialism was impossible.

In short, on the broadest of historical scales, the “hidden meaning” of the past—to use a phrase beloved by Marx—is revealed by the present and future, as probabilities with which the past was pregnant become realities.

3

Marx therefore got the timeline of revolution radically wrong. He did not (and could not) foresee the power of nationalism, the welfare state, Keynesian stimulation of demand, the state’s stabilizing management of the crisis-prone economy, and the like. In fact, we might say that, falling victim to the characteristic over-optimism of Enlightenment thinkers, he mistook the birth pangs of industrial capitalism for its death throes. Only in the neoliberal era has the capitalist mode of production even finished its conquest of the world—which the “dialectical” logic of historical materialism suggests is a necessary precondition for socialism—displacing remaining peasantries from the land and privatizing “state-socialist” economies and state-owned resources. Given the distribution of power during and after the 1970s between the working class and the business class, together with the increasing mobility of capital (a function of the advancing productive forces, thus predictable from historical materialism), neoliberal assaults on postwar working-class gains were, in retrospect, entirely predictable.

4

Despite, or because of, its horrifying destructiveness, neoliberalism potentially can play the role of opening up long-term revolutionary possibilities (even as it presents fascist possibilities as well). Its function of exacerbating class polarization, immiserating the working class, eroding social democracy, ripping up the social fabric, degrading the natural environment, destabilizing the global economy, relatively homogenizing conditions between countries, hollowing out the corporatist nation-state and compromising the integrity of the very (anti-revolutionary) idea of “nationality,” facilitating a global consciousness through electronic media—a consciousness, in the end, of suffering and oppression—and attenuating the middle class (historically a pretty reliable bastion of conservatism): all this in the aggregate serves to stimulate mass protest on a scale that, eventually, the state will find unmanageable.

Fascist repression, it’s true, is very useful, but fascist regimes can hardly remain in power indefinitely in every country. Even just in the U.S., the governmental structure is too vast and federated, and civil society too thick and resilient, for genuine fascism ever to be fully consolidated everywhere, much less made permanent. Repression alone is not a viable solution for the ruling class.

5

Sooner or later, it will be found necessary to make substantive concessions to the masses (while never abandoning repression). Some writers argue that what these will amount to is a revitalization and expansion of social democracy, such a sustained expansion (under the pressure of popular movements) that eventually society will pass from social democracy straight into socialism. This argument, however, runs contrary to the spirit of Marxism, according to which society does not return to previous social formations after they have departed the stage of history. Fully fledged social democracy was appropriate to a time of industrial unionism and limited mobility of capital; it is hard to imagine that an era of unprecedented crisis and decaying nation-states will see humanity resuscitate, globally, a rather “stable” and nationalistic social form, even expanding it relative to its capacity when unions were incomparably stronger than today. While social democratic policies will surely persist and continue to be legislated, the intensifying dysfunction of the nation-state (a social form that is just as transient as others) will necessitate the granting of different kinds of concessions than centralized and expansive social democratic ones.

6

Here, we have to shift for a moment to considering the Marxist theory of revolution. Then we’ll see the significance of the concessions that states will likely be compelled to grant. There is a glaring flaw in Marx’s conceptualization (expressed, for example, in the famous Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) according to which “an era of social revolution” begins when the dominant mode of production starts to fetter the use and development of the productive forces. The flaw is simply that the notion of “fettering” is semi-meaningless. Philosophers such as G. A. Cohen have grappled with this concept of fettering, but we don’t have to delve into the niceties of analytic philosophy in order to understand that the capitalist mode of production has always both fettered and developed the productive forces—fettered them in the context, for instance, of devastating depressions, disincentives to invest in public goods, artificial obstacles (like intellectual copyright laws) to the diffusion of knowledge, and, in general, a socially irrational distribution of resources; even as in other respects it still develops the productive forces, as with advances in information technology, biotechnology, renewable energy, and so on. In order to be truly meaningful, therefore, this concept of fettering needs revision.

7

The necessary revision is simple: we have to adopt a relative notion of fettering. Rather than an absolute conflict or a contradiction between productive forces and production relations, there is a conflict between two sets of production relations, one of which uses productive forces in a more socially rational and “un-fettering” way than the other. This revision makes the idea of fettering meaningful, even concretely observable. Capitalism, for example, was, in the final analysis, able to triumph over feudalism because it was infinitely better at developing productive forces, such that its agents could accumulate far greater resources (economic, scientific, technological, intellectual, cultural) than the agents of feudalism. The epoch of social revolution, properly speaking, lasted half a millennium, though it was punctuated by dramatic moments of condensed social and political revolution such as the French Revolution.

If the idea of fettering is to apply to a transition between capitalism and socialism, it can be made sense of only through a similar “relative” understanding, according to which a cooperative and democratic mode of production emerges over a prolonged period of time (hopefully not half a millennium) both interstitially and more visibly in the mainstream. As the old anarchic economy succumbs to crisis and stagnation, the emergent “democratic” economy—which does not yet exist today—does a better job of rationally and equitably distributing resources, thereby attracting ever more people to its practices and ideologies. It accumulates greater resources as the old economy continues to demonstrate its appalling injustice and dysfunction.

8

This theoretical framework permits an answer to the old question that has bedeviled so many radicals: why have all attempts at socialist revolution failed? The answer is that they happened in conditions that guaranteed their eventual failure. There was a radical difference between, for example, October 1917 and the French Revolution: in the latter case, capitalist relations and ideologies had already spread over Western Europe and acquired enormous power and legitimacy. The French revolutionaries were beneficiaries of centuries of capitalist evolution—not, indeed, industrial capitalist, but mercantile, agrarian, financial, and petti-bourgeois. This long economic, social, cultural, and political evolution prepared the ground for the victories of 1789–1793. In 1917, on the other hand, there was no socialist economy whatsoever on which to erect a political superstructure (a superstructure that, in turn, would facilitate the further and more unobstructed development of the socialist economy). Even industrial capitalism was barely implanted in Russia, much less socialism. The meaning of 1917 was merely that a group of opportunistic political adventurers led by two near-geniuses (Lenin and Trotsky) took advantage of a desperate wartime situation and the desperation of the populace—much of which, as a result, supported these “adventurers”—to seize power and almost immediately suppress whatever limited democracy existed. The authoritarian, bureaucratic, and brutal regime that, partly in the context of civil war, resulted—and that ultimately led to Stalinism—was about as far from socialism as one can imagine.

It is one of the ironies of the twentieth century that the Bolsheviks both forgot and illustrate a central Marxian dictum: never trust the self-interpretations of historical actors. There is always an objective context and an objective, hidden historical meaning behind the actions of people like Robespierre, Napoleon, or Lenin, a meaning they have no access to because they are caught up in the whirl of events (and, to quote Hegel, the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, after the events). The fact that Lenin and his comrades were convinced they were establishing socialism is of no more than psychological interest. It is unfortunate that many Marxists today continue to credulously believe them.

9

Said differently, the twentieth-century strategy of “Marxist” revolutionaries to seize the state (whether electorally or in an insurrection) and then carry out a social revolution—by means of a sweeping, “totalizing” political will—is highly un-Marxist. It is idealistic, voluntaristic, and unrealistic: history moves forward slowly, dialectically, “behind the backs” of historical actors, not straightforwardly or transparently through the all-conquering will of a few leaders or a single political party. The basic problem is that if you try to reconstruct society entirely from the top down, you have to contend with all the institutional legacies of capitalism. Relations of coercion and domination condition everything you do, and there is no way to break free of them by means of political or bureaucratic will. While the right state policies can be of enormous help in constructing an economically democratic society, in order for it to be genuinely democratic it cannot come into existence solely through the state. Marxism itself suggests that the state—largely a function of existing economic relations—cannot be socially creative in such a radical way. Instead, there has to be a ferment of creative energy at the grassroots (as there was during the long transition from feudalism to modern capitalism) that builds and builds over generations, laboriously inventing new kinds of institutions in a process that is both, or alternately, obstructed and facilitated by state policies (depending on whether reactionaries or liberals are in power, or, eventually, leftists).

Nearly all attempts at socialist revolution so far have been directed at a statist rupture with the past, and have therefore failed.1 There is no such thing as a genuine “rupture” in history: if you attempt it, you’ll find that you’re merely reproducing the old authoritarianism, the old hierarchies, the old bureaucratic inefficiencies and injustices, though in new forms.2 Rather, the final, culminating stage of the conquest of the state has to take place after a long period of economic gestation, so to speak (again, gestation that has been facilitated by incremental changes in state policies, as during the feudalism-to-capitalism transition), a gestation that serves as the material foundation for the final casting off of capitalist residues in the (by then) already-partially-transformed state.

10

This brings us back to the question of how capitalist elites will deal with the popular discontent that is certain to accumulate globally in the coming decades. Since the political economy that produced social democracy is passing from the scene, other sorts of concessions (in addition to repression) will be necessary. In our time of political reaction it is, admittedly, not very easy to imagine what these might be. But we can guess that, as national governments prove increasingly unable to cope with environmental and social crises, they will permit or even encourage the creation of new institutional forms at local, regional, and eventually national levels. Many of these institutions, such as cooperatives of every type (producer, consumer, housing, banking, etc.), will fall under the category of the solidarity economy, which is committed to the kind of mutual aid that has already been rather prominent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Capitalism’s loss of legitimacy will foster the conditions in which people seek more power in their workplaces, in many cases likely taking them over, aided by changes in state policies (such as the active promotion of a cooperative sector to provide employment in a stagnant economy) due in part to the presence of more socialists in government. Other innovations may include a proliferation of public banks, municipal enterprises (again, in part, to provide jobs at a time of raging structural and cyclical unemployment), and even universal basic income.

The subject of what types of “non-reformist reforms”—i.e., reforms that have the potential to serve as stepping-stones to a new economy—governments will be compelled, on pain of complete social collapse, to grant is much too complex to be explored in a brief article. Two points suffice here. First, the usual Marxist critiques of (worker) cooperatives and other ostensibly apolitical, interstitial “anti-capitalist” institutions—such as “mutual aid”—can be answered simply by countering that these are only one part of a very long and multidimensional project that takes place on explicitly political planes too. It is puzzling that so many radicals seem unaware that the transition to a new civilization is an incredibly complex, drawn-out process: for instance, over many generations, emergent institutions like cooperatives network with each other, support each other, accumulate and share resources in an attempt to become ever freer of the competitive, sociopathic logic of the capitalist economy. At the same time, all this grassroots or semi-grassroots activity contributes to building up a counter-hegemony, an anti-capitalist ethos in much of the population. And the resources that are accumulated through cooperative economic activity can be used to help fund political movements whose goal is to further transform the capitalist state and democratize the economy.

Second, the question naturally arises as to why the ruling class will tolerate, or at times even encourage, all this grassroots and statist “experimentation” with non-capitalist institutions. On one level, the answer is just that the history will unfold rather slowly (as history always does—a lesson too often forgotten by revolutionaries), such that at any given time it won’t appear as if some little policy here or there poses an existential threat to capitalism. It will seem that all that is being done is to try to stabilize society and defuse mass discontent by piecemeal reforms (often merely local or regional). Meanwhile, the severity of the worldwide crises—including, inevitably, economic depression, which destroys colossal amounts of wealth and thins the ranks of the obstinate elite—will weaken some of the resistance of the business class to even the more far-reaching policy changes. By the time it becomes clear that capitalism is really on the ropes, it will be too late: too many changes will already have occurred, across the world. Historical time cannot be rewound. The momentum of the global social revolution will, by that point, be unstoppable, not least because only non-capitalist (anti-privatizing, etc.) policies will have any success at addressing ecological and social disaster.

11

The argument that has been sketched here has a couple of implications and a single major presupposition. The presupposition is that civilization will not destroy itself before the historical logic of this long social revolution has had time to unfold. There is no question that the world is in for an extraordinary era of climatic chaos, but—if for a moment we can indulge in optimism—it might transpire that the ecological changes serve to accelerate the necessary reforms by stimulating protest on an absolutely overwhelming scale. Maybe, then, humanity would save itself in the very nick of time. If not, well, we’ll have a grim answer to the old question “Socialism or barbarism?”

One implication of the argument is that there is a kernel of truth in most ideological tendencies on the left, and radicals should therefore temper their squabbling. The old debates between, say, Marxists and anarchists are seen to be narrow, short-sighted, crabbed, doctrinaire, and premised on a false understanding of the timescales in question. If one expects revolution to happen over a couple of decades, then yes, the old sectarian disputes might acquire urgency and make some sense. But if one chooses to be a Marxist rather than a voluntarist, a realist rather than an idealist, one sees that global revolution will take a century or two, and there is temporal room for statist and non-statist strategies of all kinds.

A second implication, less practically important but of interest anyway, is that Marxists going back to the founder himself have misunderstood the prescriptions of historical materialism. There may well be something like a “dictatorship of the proletariat” someday, but, since idealism and voluntarism are false, it will (like the earlier “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”) happen near the end of the revolutionary epoch, not at the beginning. It is impossible to predict what form the state will take by then, or how the final removal of bourgeois remnants from government will further transform it. What can be known is only that in order to politically oust the ruling class, the working class needs not just numbers but resources, which hitherto it has lacked on the necessary scale. With the gradual—but, of course, contested and violent—spread of a semi-socialist economy alongside (and interacting with) the decadent capitalist one, workers will be able to accumulate the requisite resources to effectually compete against the shrinking business class, electing left-wing representatives and progressively changing the character of the capitalist state.

Meanwhile, in the streets, people will be figuratively manning the barricades, decade after decade, across a world tortured by the greed of the wealthy and the suffering of the masses. All their struggles, surely, will not be in vain.

  1. Other reasons for their failure have been operative as well, notably imperialist interference with the revolutionary process. But the effectiveness of such interference has itself shown the inadequacy of an exclusively “ruptural” strategy—the attempt to create socialism by political fiat in a still-overwhelmingly-capitalist world—because core capitalist nations usually find it easy to squash the political revolution when it hasn’t been preceded by generations of socialist institution-building across the globe, including in the heart of the most advanced countries.
  2. To repeat, this is the lesson of Marxism itself. We are embedded in the past even when trying to idealistically leap out of it and leave it behind. Insofar as Marx sometimes wrote as if a proletarian dictatorship could virtually “start anew,” enacting whatever policies it wanted and planning a new society as though from a blueprint, he forgot the gist of his own thought.
The post Eleven Theses on Socialist Revolution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

All the World’s a Stage . . . Except in our Own Backyards!

The fourth of John Talbott’s criteria is the need for cultural sustainability: Satisfying our need as human beings to be creative and expressive; to learn, grow, teach and be; to have a diverse, interesting, stimulating and exciting social environment and range of experiences available.
― Christine Connelly, Sustainable Communities: Lessons from Aspiring Eco-Villages

And, we can take what Connelly states in her book to the level of — There is relatively little sharing of facilities, faculties, things, social capital, land, farming, cooperative everything, largely due to the dispersement of collective action capitalism has welded to the capitalist consumer, err, citizen. In one sense, many people in this Western society like the idea of big familial situations, and dispersing extra “things” and extra “time” in a cooperative sense, but the systems of oppression, the systems of dog-eat-dog, the systems of malformed educations and coocoo histories, all of that and the retail mentality AND the psychological fears (real, imagined, post-hypnotically suggested through a debt society) of losing home, health, humanity with the wrong throw of the mortgage and employment dice, we have now mostly a society that is not a sharing society, not a sharing economy, not a cadre of millions who believe in a genuine progress index as a marker of a democracy’s overall health.

But to allude to the title, specifically, I am looking at more and more systems of shutting out the ground-view of things versus the global view, or the international view. I am seeing more and more web sites forgetting the lynch-pin of humanity — the family, the community around a family, and the attempt to create tribes and communities of similar purposes and communities of place. Leftist websites spend countless miles of digital ink repeating what the take is on Imperial power, what the take is on the perversities of the American Chaotic diseases, what the world is in those white nations (sic) of more and more poverty, fencing out solutions and global bullshit tied to hobbling literally China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and any country where a social contract with the people and the land is emerging. Important, sure, but some of us are Marxists because we look at the ground as a way toward the larger truths.

Keeping it Local for Global Perspectives

The reality is that, like Thoreau, most do not have to travel far geographically or scholastically to understand systems from one example or a limited set of examples. If a community, or town or county can’t stop job-killing, physiology-killing, ecological-killing things/ideologies/processes coming into said community, such as, say, aerial sprays of mountains and valleys and hills that have been razed by industry, then, what sort of hope do people hold out in the larger view that your country will do the right thing with say, oh, Cuba. You know, stopping the plague of economic and financial and shipping sanctions/blockades. You can see in plain view the results of stealing countries’ bank accounts or stopping the shipping of valuable life saving “stuffs.”

So, how can that Lincoln County, OR, attempt to go to the State Supreme Court to lobby these shyster judges to do the right thing — stop the spraying of neurological and gut killing sprays to inhibit the unnatural grown and profusion of noxious weeds and opportunist shrubs and bushes on a part of mother earth that once was a dynamic forest with dynamic species, with shaded creeks, with ground food for subsoil, terrestrial and avian creatures.

I get why web sites that carry leftist news and reports go for the international gut wrenching or elitist view, but we need balance. We need proof of life and hope and action at the human level. We need writers like me to take one example of humanity doing humanity right, and giving it to the world.

That is the world here, for a moment — less than 72 hours on a plot of forest land I happen to own with my sister. Nothing fancy, just 20 acres of white pine and cedar and Douglas fir. Turkeys and bears, and the amazing skies. It is near Pahto, or Mount Adams. What should be wet soil is something like I’d find in Colorado near Durango. Snow for the season, more than one fifth the average snowfall. And there has been no rain since June 17.

We are talking Oregon, in the viewshed of Pahto and Wy’east (Adams and Hood). Things on those 20 acres and my neighbors’ adjoining 75 acres are not right. Fire, as one of the brothers told me, will be — unless climate models change 180 degrees — a bigger and bigger part of the land. The landscape. The people’s trial and tribulations. Throughout the west. Throughout the globe.

As we are in a 24-7 loop of being entertained (distracted) to death with sports, Trump Beatification Syndrome/Trump Derangement Syndrome, the politics of perversity, Corona Crisis Number 999, and all the junk that occupies the brains of Homo Retailopethicus.

Land Ethic

I’ve been coming to this property for going on 30 years. Not regularly since I have lived and worked in such places as El Paso, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Gladstone, Beaverton, Estacada, Vancouver, and down here on the coast. It is a three and three-quarters of an hour trip from our house on the Pacific (Central Coast) to the place eight miles north of a town called White Salmon.

I met the neighbor landowners, let’s call them Rita and Ron, before they had put down the concrete footings to their house. Now, some 30 years later, they have a garden, tapped into water, have a nice modern house, lots of out buildings, a Cat for grading, and other things to make life in the woods pretty nice. Ron’s got a degree from U of Washington in geography. He is from Seattle. His brother (we’ll call him JW) put in 30 years at Boeing, and he spends time up on some acres he owns next to my property. A motor home that is nothing fancy, a SUV and he has juice, water and a septic system. There is a lot to do, and not a lot to do. He has a condo in Scottsdale, and he has kids in Spokane and Florida. He is living the good life, and it isn’t a huge ecological footprint. He’s a dyed in the wool democrat.

There are robust and real discussions with these two guys and Ron’s wife Rita. She has been married three times, has childhood trauma, had major drug addictions and she is a big time worker, gets things done, and is in recovery. Her gigs include not just taking care of rich people’s linens, scrubbing and cooking. She’s done this sort of work so long that she gets requests from really sick spouses, or individuals. She is there as caretaker, first responder, nutritional coach, travel agent, companion on some of those trips, and navigator for finances, health care concerns, family issues, and more.

Heavy things taking care of people who once were robust, skiers, surfers, outdoors folk, who are now bed-ridden and stroke paralyzed. There are plenty of issues tied to family members of the people she cares for wanting their cut of the goods, and those who want to outright steal from their moms and dads, grannies and papas.

This is a job we call “caring for people” angels. While Rita doesn’t buy into any heaven/hell theme, she jokes about being both an angel of mercy and of death. Many have died on her watch due to advanced stages of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the like.

I worked as a union organizer in Seattle, for part-time college faculty, but my union, SEIU, was and is all about health care workers. I spent time with women and men in Seattle and surrounding communities who were the licensed caregivers — the care home owners and the care home workers. Those workers are many times employed by the state to work the low paying, hard hours jobs of assisting people, old or young, who are incapable of thriving on their own without help with any number of things. Many of the people I represented in the union did the bathing and the feeding.

What I learned in those microcosms (again, the big picture stuff was always at the forefront in the union, with them beating the drum to support Obama-2 and Insley for WA governor) was again ramifying how mixed up Capitalism is under Democrats or the Demons of Republicanism. In Seattle, post-Occupy where I got to teach a few times in those famous street teach-ins, all of the Trayvon Martin protests, and those against Amazon, the fabric of that disjointed concept of those who have and those who do not have was in plain sight.

The levels of inequity were in plain sight in that backyard of mine. And, those people from African nations, those Latinx, working as personal care support, or CNAs, and those managing houses where the old, tired, sick would end up, now that was yet another lesson, and all the world is a stage was there as the underlying theme in that Diaspora of people from poverty-stricken post (sic) colonial lands, where war and murder by despots were daily concerns. These humble people were/are the caregivers, the end-of-life shepherds for “our” people — citizens.

In so many cases, the people who come from poor countries, they were the only people in the lives of these American citizens who were languishing in their sadness as their families had abandoned them in many instances. Some woman from Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, there she was, bathing, soothing, singing to and holding the lives of white people who were stuck in a room, slowly or rapidly dying.

Caregivers, and SEIU represented them as a unit. All the training these caregivers have to undergo, at the state and county levels. Black women and men, and those of Muslim faith, in the Seattle area, tending to the lives of the dying, or the developmentally disabled, that is the reality of capitalism as throwaway society. Capitalism of the impersonal, Capitalism of the scam after scam. Each layer of Capitalism is like a tree riddled with termites and beetles and all manner of disease eating it from the inside out.

That’s the real world stage — what a society does to assist the old, young, vulnerable, failing, too weak to move. What a society does to collectively build safety nets, to look at the “all the world as a stage” perspective from a macro lens, in order to widen the scope to the county, regional, national, global level. Rita taking care of super vulnerable people who do not worry about how they are paying for her private services. Aging in place — in these big homes overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Aging at home before all things go south.

In some cases, Rita is their only confidant, their only set of ears and eyes. Twice weekly visits are the only human touch they receive in their lives. Her job is that multiplicity of jobs in a patriarchal disaster capitalism society — nurse, PT provider, social worker, psychologist, taxi service, health navigator, nutritionist, legal consultant, errand person, cook, mover, travel consultant, companion, financial planner, and more. to end up as a symbolic friend and quasi-daughter or sister.

Rita and Ron live a good life out in the woods, with turkeys jumping into the trees, deer coming to the great garden they have, and the seasonal bear pushing over stumps to look for grubs. A riot of hummingbirds. Snakes and lizards. Butterflies we don’t see in suburban areas anymore. And those trees.

Ron works the land, tends to the canopies, looks for crowded trees, or dying ones, and has learned how to shepherd the land so the trees on the property thrive. Canopies where the crowns don’t touch. A better than park-like feel to the land. And now, with the changing precipitation, the nighttime temperatures last week in the nineties, all that desiccating climate heating, we have yet another “world is a stage” with the poor management of the land, the lack of state resources, the lack of collective will to mitigate fire suppression, and how to bring these forests into some manageable fire dampening state.

Yes, Ron is 68, still capable of logging and stacking trees, but his shoulder a few years ago was operated on, and a knee replaced this year. And, just a week ago, a reminder that the other knee will be chopped out with a titanium replacement to come.

Rita and Ron save money, use the Washington state Medicaid system, they are not consumers — Ron saves the old Ford sedan, cannibalize parts from old washers and dryers, and he knows how to tune up chainsaws, and how to build. His degree in geography and his deep regard for American history keep him sane. He likes golf, he plays dozens of types of cards, including Texas Hold’em, and he does Scrabble. He knows the native names of the two mountains in his geographic area.

This is the small fry of America, and a hidden gem. I know for a fact that old aging in place infirm people, or chronically unhoused folk, or people on the more untenable end of the Autism Spectrum, as well as people who do not fit in, who have intellectual disabilities, or those with complex or simple PTSD, would thrive here.

Again, setting up communities that are multi-generational, with residents possessing multiple avocations and occupations, people with varying skills, those who want community big time, and those who need community in their lives to do some checks and balances. Horse therapy, or dogs. Healthcare and PTSD recovery through gardening. Skills of building a tiny home from logs to end product. Designing microhomes that are in kits, packages that a couple could put together. Imagine that, housing people, and getting abandoned farms or degraded farms into the hands of intentional and healing communities.

So, that one 72 hours on the land, my land shared in title with my sister (it’s really never OUR land, now is it), the small things of just regular people spark, again, from this socialist, Marxist, communist, the deep well of experience and deep learning to a much higher ground, something worthy. But imagine, a thousand, or ten thousand farming centered healing communities, with Native American elders/wisdom, with that wounded veteran to farmer ethos, with all the markings of communitarian outposts of real healing and body-mind-spirit functioning. You know, all those yellow buses that are no longer road worthy. Think of them in the millions, taken to some of these places to be stripped, insulated, interior designed, made into HOMES, with amazing artistic touches, in a big circle, like a sunflower, with a community gathering place in the center, commercial kitchen and food processing center, healing center, and arts center. Imagine that, Bezos and Gates and all the other Financial Stormtroopers who have gutted communities from the bottom, up.

Alas, that’s what the small generates — the systems thinking approach to communities, which need food security, water security, direct health care, even living, aging and dying in place. This does work, will work, and should be scaled up to the thousandth degree. But in this scorched earth and scorched body capitalism, nothing can be moved unless there are a thousand lawyers, ten thousand contracts, and one hundred thousand overseers-code enforcers-middlemen/women in the mix, denigrating human agency, deconstructing the value of people and ideas, and destroying hope.

Bear, turkey, deer, on the deck sipping tequila, and the four of us talking about life, aging, the intricacies of lives so different yet here, on this plot of land, with a common humanity beyond just the intercourse of money and exchanges a la capitalism. The land, that is, the mountains and hills, all those animal trails, each tree a testament to these people, Rita and Ron, caring for the place for more than three decades.

Got a Few Million for this Real Solution?

So, the state of affairs is rotten, to the max, in every aspect of Capitalism. Sure, JC and Rita and Ron have a more middle of the row belief in this country’s exceptionalism. They are not versed in Howard Zinn, W.E.B. DuBois, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and so many others who have pried open this country’s evil roots, it’s so-called founding, and the wars, the expansionism, all of that. It’s much easier to look at the past with rose tinted glasses, and to believe that something was right, with Eisenhauer or Truman, FDR, any of them. That is the limitation of Americans, even good ones like Ron, Rita and JC. Truly, but they are in their own world, so to speak, a bubble, and yes, they get the world around them is harsh, that some (sic) of USA’s policies have kinked up the world. But to have those limits, to not see how the US has always been Murder Incorporated, or that this is Rogue Nation, a nation of chaos, a nation run by CIA-DoD and the secretive cabal of banks-industrialists-AI fuckers.

And, lo and behold, another friend, we’ll call her Betty, sent to me this other chunk of land, in Oregon, near wine country, 205 acres, up for sale, with amazing infrastructure, up for sale for 6.9 million dollars. The possibility of a developer coming into 205 acres, setting the torch for 5 acre dream (sic) homes for the rich, in a planned and gated community of millionaires, well, that is the rush she had to ask me if I had ideas.

Of course, I have ideas. Look at the list above. This place is called Laurelwood — Look at it here. Link.

205 Acres Southwest of Hillsboro, OR

Here, the low down via the realtor —

  • $6,945,000.
  • 205 +/-  acres zoned AF-5
  • Includes 49 Acre Campus with 6+ Buildings totaling approx. 130,000 SF:
    1. Expansion Hall- Administration Building with Auditorium, Classrooms and Offices
    2. Harmony Hall- Girl’s dorm with 67 rooms, 7 offices, lounge, chapel, commercial kitchen, dining room, bath suites, etc. and attached 3-bedroom Dean’s house
    3. Devotion Hall- Boy’s dorm with 49 rooms (19 rooms need sheetrock finished and painted), apartment with kitchen, bath suites, rec room, lounges, etc. and attached 5-bedroom Dean’s house
    4. Gymnasium/Music Building with Stage
    5. Science Classroom Building with Library
    6. Industrial Arts Building with Auto Shop, Wood Shop and Welding Shop
  • Extensive Updates during current ownership include:
    1. Administration Building has newer metal roof, updated windows, new insulation, remodeled auditorium and meeting rooms, new HVAC, electrical service and lighting
    2. New windows, high efficiency hot water system, new HVAC, new kitchen appliances and walk-in refrigerator, insulation, paint, lighting and carpeting in Harmony Hall (Girl’s dorm)
    3. New windows, insulation in 49 rooms plus new sheetrock in 30 rooms of Devotion Hall (Boy’s dorm)
    4. New and repaired roofs and new electrical services
  • Domestic water system and sewage system for campus
  • Includes separate 4.69 acres (Tax Lot 1301) with Spring and water rights– domestic water source for campus
  • Adjacent 151 +/- acres well suited for low density residential development with 30 LA water co-op certificates
  • Vineyard soils & Beautiful Views
  • South Fork Hill Creek flows through property
  • Rural location approximately 14 miles south of Hillsboro near Gaston
  • Washington County
  • Tax Lots 2400 & 1532, Sec 5, Tax Lots 400, 2400 & 2500, Sec 5c and Tax Lot 1301, Sec 16, T2S, R3W, W.M.

Ahh, the place is now a retreat, in retreat, as the Yoga enthusiasts are old or aging, and the place was closed due to the corona insanity/lockdown, and the people are giving up, and now it’s on the market: It is Ananda of Laurelwood. I present the basic website verbiage:

What Is Ananda?
Ananda is a global movement to help you realize the joy of your own highest Self.

Ananda Oregon
Living Wisdom School
Temple & Teaching Center
Yogananda Gardens
Conscious Aging

Our Inspiration
Paramhansa Yogananda
Swami Kriyananda
Ananda Worldwide
Education for Life

There you have it — water, a spring, land, buildings, the potential of being not just this 205 intentional-healing-farming-tiny home building community, but a model for many others to spread across the land. I know I could get dozens of groups to come to this property for workshops, test kitchen work, growers, even wine producers, horse therapy folk, music healers, and even entomologists to create insect and pollinator fields. Students from the dozens of colleges around the Pacific Northwest, doing projects on aging, on healing, the dog and horse therapy works.

Take a look at this —

 

Our retreat center is located southwest of Portland in a beautiful pastoral valley. There are numerous places to walk and connect with nature throughout our gardens, orchards, and grounds. Our guest rooms are simple, decorated to create an uplifting space to rejuvenate. Each room has its own sink with bathrooms just down the hall. Three delicious vegetarian meals served each day are included as part of your stay. Your retreat includes morning and afternoon yoga and meditation.

So, how do I, well trained, well educated, well versed, find the money? My proposal to Betty is to send a letter to, well, that famous ex-wife, McKenzie Bezos, now McKenzie Scott Tuttle. Billionaire who has pledged to give away half of her wealth, in the billions, tens of billions. Oh, there is Nick Hanauer, and other billionaires, so, imagine, just putting 6.9 million down, owning the property, shelling out for two or three years the monthly upkeep and insurance shit that this property would need while people like me and others build this community, pulling in all those actors, business women and men, the nonprofits, the outside the envelope people who could help design this place as a place of healing.

For me, it is a quick writing prompt, and what follows it that letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle. First draft. You can never get this to Abigail Disney or Melinda Gates, others, including the Phil Nike Knights. That is Capitalism on steroids — lies, flimflam, propaganda, marketing us to death, layer after layer of buffering, check systems, until good ideas and a good piece of land go the way of the dodo — extinct. This project I could spark into action. I have no problem talking with McKenzie or her handlers with her there, of course. Anyone. There are 2,800 billionaires in the world. Hundreds of philanthropies. A few million angel investors. Collective action and stakeholder building. But the property needs to be held in a trust, a placeholder to allow for a group of people to design its future, to get entrepreneurs involved, to get this thing going so it can be self-sufficient. A model for thousands of other places around the USA and Canada, being scarfed up by the evil ones, the developers.

Below my letter to Scott-Tuttle,  see Nick Hanauer. McKenzie Scott gets wealthier even giving away billions below that. Abigail Disney below that. Below her, the author of Dream Hoarders. Better yet, Michael Parenti on Capitalism below the hoarder talk. Below that, Michael’s son, Christian, speaking about Tropic of Chaos, his book climate chaos/heating fueling violence and war.

Here, my letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started the Giving Pledge in 2010. It encourages those billionaires to pledge to give away 50% of their earnings to charity. By 2012, over 81 billionaires joined the Giving Pledge. That number is now over 120 billionaires, as of May 2014, according to the Giving Pledge’s official website.)

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Dear McKenzie Scott-Tuttle:

RE: Satellites of Tierra Firma – Some Look to Mars and the Moon, We Look to Soil Here

& Medicine Wheel of Healing, Growing, Learning, Living

People and land need healing which is all inclusive – holistic.

                 — Allan Savory

 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

                — Nelson Mandela

Reverence is an emotion that we can nurture in our very young children, respect is an attitude that we instill in our children as they become school-agers, and responsibility is an act that we inspire in our children as they grow through the middle years and become adolescents.

                — Zoe Weil, p. 42, Above All Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times

Oh, the naysayers tell me and my cohorts to not even try to break into the foundation you run, that this concept of having Mackenzie Scott Tuttle even interested in becoming a placeholder for an idea, and for this land that a group of visionaries see as an incubation collective space for dreams to become reality.

We place our hopes in your ability to read on and see the vision and plans driving this solicitation, this ask. And it is a big ask.

This is figuratively and literally putting the cart before the horse. Here we have 200 acres, and the vision is retrofitting this center that is already there, Ananda,  into a truly holistic healing center, youth run, for a seven generations resiliency and look forward ethos of learning to steward the land, learning to grow the land, toward biodynamic farming, all mixed in with intergenerational wisdom growing.

We are seeing this, as stated above, as a medicine wheel. A circle of integrative thinking, education, experimentation and overlapping visions of bringing stakeholders from around the Pacific Northwest (and world) into this safe harbor. There are already facilities on this property as you can see from the real estate prospectus. There are 120 rooms in a great building. There are outbuildings, a gymnasium, barns, and spring water.

It is unfortunately up for sale, and the danger there is a developer with a keen eye to massive profits and turning a spiritual and secular place of great healing and medicine wheel potential into “dream homes” for the rich.

Good land turned into a gated community? We are asking your philanthropy to take a deep dive into helping put this property on hold from those nefarious intentions and allow our group to develop this circle of healing – education across disciplines, elder type academy mixed with youth directed programs; farming; food production; micro-home  building and construction facility; trauma informed healing.

Actually, more. Think of this as a community of communities.

Young People Need Hope, a Place (many places) and Leadership and Development

So many young people are done with Industrial and Techno Capitalism. They know deep down there is more to a scoop of soil than a billion bacteria, and they want to be part of healing communities.

We are proposing the Foundation you have set up invest in this property, as a placeholder for our development plan – actually it is an anti-developer plan. This property will be scarfed up for a steal, by, land and housing developers who want McMansions out here in this incredible eco-scape. Just what we do not need in the outlying areas of Portland.  Or in so many other locations across this country.

We are a small group ready to do what we can to get food growers and producers at the table to invest in intellectual and sweat and tears capital to make this 200 acres work as a living community of new farmers, people living and learning on the property, incubating ideas for, we hope, to include a micro-home building project, crops, vineyards, learning centers for farming and preserving, marketing and engaging in food healing.

We come at this with decades around food systems, learning from Via Campesina/o or Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Winona LaDuke, Rachel Carson. We believe in biomimicry, that is, learning how nature settles scores, survives and thrives. We come at this as deeply concerned about ecological footprints, life cycle analyses, the disposable culture and the planned and marketed obsolescence.

We are also coming at this as educators – earth teachers, who know classrooms in prison like settings, with rows of desks, do not engender creative and solutionaries– young people ready to go into the world, even a small community, with engaged, creative and positive ways to deal with climate chaos and the impending shattering of safety nets, including biological and earth systems “nets” and “webs.”

This property is unique, as all of our earth is. This is firstly Kalapua land, first, and that is the Grande Ronde and Siletz, as well as the Atfalsti, too. We call it Gatson, near Hillsboro, Oregon, but the land is the essence of the spirit givers of this continent before “discovery.”

Rich, in the wine country of the new people to this region, this land is about applying our ethos and yours, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, toward a real healing, a real stewardship and real intergeneration ethos around carrying the wisdom of tribes and growers and educators to the youth. We believe women are at the center of many of the themes already listed – farming, educating, healing, human stewardship.

Think of this project as the cart before the horse because the old system, the horse, was always the money, the source of power, and with power comes strings attached. The people involved in this project are looking to have a multistoried community of farmers, learners, youth learning trades and people skills, as well as elders, both Native and new arrivals, to understand that a farm is more than that, as well as a vineyard is more than the sum of the grapes. It is about a reclaiming of the sacred – soil, air, photosynthesis in a truly sustainable fashion.

The only “green washing” we can imagine this project will carry forth is the washing of the greens, the other harvests, in tubs of clear spring water.

Some of us on this project have traveled to other parts of this continent, and spent time with coffee growers and understand that shade grown coffee and beyond fair trade are the only elements to a truly fair and equitable system. Train the people of the land, who are the true stewards, to not only grow, but to roast and market the bounty. Grow the community with water projects, irrigation, schools, and globalized sharing of people, visitors.

This project needs a placeholder, to keep the land out of the insane real estate market. We will do the rest, we solutionaires. There are so many growers and investment angels who want to be part of the Seventh Generation solution.

Clearly, the lessons for people to be in this 200 acre community, farm-soil-healing satellite, are lessons you, Ms. Scott-Tuttle,  the fiction writer, know, which you capture deftly with Luther Albright. The world for young people in the Pacific Northwest is that crumbling home and crumbling dam of Albright. The healing we need is more than the structures and infrastructure. It is inside, at the heart of the soul of imagination. Some of us on this project are soliciting from your charity a placeholder purchase of the property are tied to the arts, believing STEAM is the only way forward, and that S.T.E.M. is lifeless and dangerous without the A – arts. We believe the true voice of people are those who believe in asking “what should we do” rather than what is currently on superchargers – “What Can We Do?”

We realize that for many young people, politics have failed them. Many youth I speak with and work with, believe this country is in the midst of an empire of chaos in steep decay. Alternatives to the decay is building communities that would fit the model here on 200 acres – agro-ecological farming; nutritional centered living; housing; long-term care assistance; youth directed entrepreneur projects; bringing in local and state businesses leaders to be part of a design from the grassroots up.

The catch for most of the youth we have engaged is —  to paraphrase and level  a composite point,” We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.” This simple statement is packed full of context and frightening reality for millions of students and adults who feel disconnected and neutered by both government agencies and corporate policies.

First, who wants to be “ruled” by anyone? That we have this class system of elite, middle managers, the elite’s high ranking servicers, and then, the rest of the citizens, the so-called 80 percent who have captured less than the overall 10 percent of “wealth” in this country. The very idea of an elite out of touch, or completely out of touch speaks to an ignorance that is dangerous to the world, to the 80 percent, and also speaks to a possible planned ignorance. That we have millions of amazing people, to include nonprofits, community-led organizations, educational institutions, journalists, and others, who can speak to what those “travails” are, and yet, the elites failing to grasp those challenges, or failing to even acknowledge them, this is what many believe is the decay of this society.

This may not sit well with you or your philanthropy, but we as a group have dozens of years experience working with K12, higher ed, farming groups, social services/mutual aid movements, and have systems thinking in our backgrounds, and we underscore youth and community-driven projects and designs. This medicine wheel/circle land trust we are asking you to consider with a follow up meeting, well, this is the only way to a model-driven set of safety nets to move into some challenging times for this Empire in a world that is no longer USA centric.

We are solutionaries, that is, we look for solutions by taking apart problems and then applying holism and deep experimentation in design, but using tried and proven systems that do work.

Healthy food, healthy relationships to culture, people, nature, healthy work, worthy work, with an eye always on the arts. Just as a farming and tiny home community, where biodynamic farming and food preserving and from nail to roof to complete tiny home design are part and parcel the key elements for this community to thrive under, well, there are no better classrooms and transferable skills.

Some of us have seen youth and adults learn the crafts needed to design, plan, buildings, and market tiny homes that would be used to seed communities that are, again, centered around farming, centered around healing, centered around Native American healing, and local community values. A young woman who finishes the hands-on learning of building a tiny home – with windows, skylights, plumbing, furnishings, electricity ready, all of that which a home entails – is a remarkable, valuable person. All those skills, again, like a medicine wheel, teach deeper lessons, and transferable skills.

This is what this property would also “house.”

All Tied Together – School, Outdoors, People, Action, Solving Food Insecurity and Housing

The should is an educational-farming-entrepreneur-solutions incubator on these 200 acres. Proving that this could be one of a thousand across the land. There are literally thousands of similar properties around the US, within their own cultural-community-ecological-historical milieus, but again, this project is one that Luther Albright would have thrived inside as a “New Engineer for Growing Communities,” as opposed to river-killing dam builder.

Our earthquake is here now, with all measure of tremors and aftershocks —  that is the climate chaos, wildfires, food insecurity, and alas, the New/New Gilded age of deep inequities that are criminal, as you well know, Ms. Scott Tuttle.

Here, the cart (before the horse):  this amazing collective piece of land and buildings with a multiversity of spiritual under girders . The horses are ready, but they need the cart, the home, the fabric of incubation. Those stallions and mares are engaged, ready, who are willing to take a leap of faith here and risk being outside the common paradigm of predatory and consumer-driven capitalism that has put many millions in a highly precarious position.

It’s amazing, the current system of philanthropy which forces more and more people to beg for less and less diverse money for fewer and fewer truly innovative ideas. Funding a project like this is a legacy ad-venture, the exact formula we need (scaled up to a 1,000 different locales) to break the chains of Disaster and Predatory Capitalism. We need that “capital,” the cart, to help those stallions and mares to break for the field of ideas and fresh streams of praxis.

There are any number of ideas for sustainability communities. Co-ops, growers groups, or mixed communities for young and old to exchange knowledge, capacity, growth, sweat equity —  called intergenerational living. This is about a pretty inventive suite of concepts and practices:

  • learning spaces, inside and outside
  • buildings to develop micro home (unique, easily packaged and ready to put together) manufacturing and R & D
  • food systems – farming of sustainable food, herbs and those vines
  • husbandry
  • learning food systems, from farm to plate
  • ceramics, painting, music, dance, theater and writing center
  • speakers’ bureau
  • farmers,  restaurateurs and harvesters with a stake in the community
  • healing center
  • Youth directed outdoor education and experiences
  • sustainability practicum’s for students
  • low income micro home housing
  • day care center, early learning center

How does this make any sense to a billionaire, who has devoted her life to “giving away” half of her wealth in her lifetime? Well, we see this project – this land-property – as a legacy for many of the avocations and interests (passions) you have articulated over the years. Your vision and commitment to education and women-centered projects are admirable. This is one of those projects.

There is that emotional and sappy Movie, Field of Dreams, and the statement – “if you build it, they will come.” We have found that over the years teaching in many places – Seattle, Spokane, Portland, El Paso, Auburn, Mexico – that young people and nontraditional students want mentoring, leadership and the tools to be mentors and leaders. They need the cart before the horse can herald in the new ideas, and the new way to a better future. If the classroom and master facilitator allows for open growth, unique student-led ideas and work, well, that person has BUILT the field of dreams from which to grow.

There are so many potentials with this project, and it starts with the land, holding it as a Scott-Tuttle placeholder. From an investment point of view, as long as you have people wrangling other people and professionals to get this satellite of sanity, the medicine wheel with many spokes radiating out and inward, the property increases in monetary value. Land is sacred, but just as sacred are the ideas and the potential that land might germinate and grow. It is the reality of our country – too few control too much. We see it in the infamous “Complex” – not just military, but, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, Big Business, Big Education, Big Medicine, as well as private prisons, for profit social services, AI , and Big Tech, so called Surveillance Capitalism.  Who in the 80 percent has the funds to purchase a $7 million project?

Big ideas like this cooperative land medicine wheel (a first of many satellites) might be common, but the web of supportive and cohesive things tied to this property is unusual, to say the least. With the failing of small businesses throughout the area, with the food insecurity for women, children and families, with the housing insecurity, added to debt insecurity —  with all those insecurities young and old face, this project could be the light at the end of many tunnels.  We have connections to Oregon Tilth and Latinx Farmers, and large biodynamic vineyards. We have connections to women’s veteran groups, to aging in place experts. We have connections to trauma healers and growers and interested folk who know construction and design. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Gold Beach, OR, is full of innovators, and those include the dozens of colleges and universities just in these two states – Oregon and Washington. We intend to trawl for investors – farms, food purveyors, wineries, restaurants, schools and various college programmers – to put into this project. A soil plot to test perennial wheat, a al the Land Institute, to Amory Lovins, Novella Carpenter, and so many more, finding a place of integrated living, ag, permaculture and ever-evolving cultural understanding of the finite planet we are on.

We are hopeful, even under the current Sixth Extinction.

It is telling, this entomologist and educator’s perspective after three decades of teaching:

Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana, took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:

Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched.

How contradictory and illustrative that this student experience took place in a “protected national park.”

Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:

Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.

We are hopeful that our youth can document life on this Medicine Wheel Land Satellite, and instead of  describing “loss, decline, death,”  this one satellite can help individuals to describe resurgence, restoration, holism, and growth. A model, like the one we propose, could be the incubator and inspiration for other similar projects throughout the land. So many empty buildings, so many abandoned farms, so much good land about to be grabbed up by McMansion developers, or those who have no vision toward a resilient and communitarian existence.

We are thinking of a medicine wheel since so many people can utilize the Farm, from horse therapists, to gardening as trauma healers; from alternative medicine experts, to restaurants with a connection to growers. This is Tierra Firma Robusta, for sure, with so much potential to integrate a suite of smart, worldly, localized and educational programs, permanent, long-term, and short in duration.  This would be the linchpin of inspiration, an incubator for similar projects, and we’d make sure that the Philanthropy you head up would be in some form of limelight – imagine, a billionaire placing a property with a deep spiritual history into a land trust of perpetuity. I know another billionaire has purchased farmland and is now the largest farm land holder in the US, but this one here we propose would fit an entirely different model, having nothing to do with industrial farming, genetic engineering and monocultures. Like all good societies, the cornucopia of life and backgrounds and people and land is what makes them dynamic, healthy and resilient, as well as fair.

We propose a grand idea, but we need that field of dreams, that field, that farm, before we can engage a hundred people to be part of this medicine wheel of land healing and hope.

Please let our team discuss this further. Truly, we have both the passion and persistence to get this Medicine Wheel of Healing Farm Community to an unimaginably vibrant level. Will you be part of our field of dreams?

Sincerely,

Paul Haeder

205 +/- Acres southwest of Hillsboro, OR

The Ananda Center at Laurelwood is considered an educational nonprofit. It started as a retreat center with workshops including yoga and energy healing. It also offers a non-credit residential study program and a non-accredited (but state authorized) college offering bachelor and associate degrees and educational certificates.

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Videos, as promised:

https://youtu.be/-sR_w3aDKLc

https://www.c-span.org/video/?301

Tropic of Chaos

Christian Parenti reported on several countries where environmental change is fueling violence and war. He responded to questions from members of the audience at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

The post All the World’s a Stage . . . Except in our Own Backyards! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Batty Bioweapons, 5G, and Star Wars

An interview with myself, Paul Haeder, a radical Marxist from the Pacific Northwest and my ideas about what is going on to drive the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Great Reset.

It’s not pretty, for sure, how I go all crazy and fugue like, in the interview (man, the lack of teaching 30 students face to face has turned me into a dervish, nodding, head shaking wacko). But I enjoyed these three socialist interviewers, and while I sort of take over the discussion, and I do have a set of nervous ticks and habits [and I can rationalize those by saying I don’t like looking at a screen, an external camera, and in this episode, I had to prop the smart/dumbphone onto the keyboard since Zoom Doom was cutting out on the computer], I think there are harvestable points the four of us made. Again, thanks to Andy, Kenny and Eduardo for the time capsule moment. The Jab, Star Wars, and the Bubble Net of Digital Gulags.”

It maybe forcing the three into a lumping process, but that is what ideas and brainstorming and plain old historical looks at all the bullshit thrown upon the human race by a sliver of people we call the elite, the beautiful people, the controllers.

It is a fundamental discussion now, we on the left-left, looking at the various nefarious activities, plans and invented narratives the controllers have unfolded in the past, currently and for the future. If it feels like Blade Runner or Minority Report , then it must be somehow in the reality slipstream of our times to actually force us to admit the fact that AI and the fascist billionaire club are looking way beyond the horizon of Miami under water. Way beyond disease and viruses and pathogens.

Here’s a fascist:

In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.
Klaus Schwab

And here’s the reality of the USA and other western countries citizens afraid to look in the mirror or at their own controllers:

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil by Gavin Mayhew

I talked a lot about books, about authors, even newspapers of old, in this interview. For very good reasons —

There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, page 48

See the source image

The idea is to drum up and initiate and converge people into conversations, and deep analyses, but without a truckload of books under one’s belt, well, the conversation stays shallow, stays controlled, stays right smack in the center of the mainstream mush media’s lies of omission and submission, the controlling media, the media of government controllers, owned and served by the corporations, and the billionaire class who are nefarious, who are the drivers of destruction and culture. That we have to know Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic might “beat” Jeff Bezos into space as a bug-eyed sociopath billionaire, well, that news takes another breath of sanity away from people consuming it and contemplating it and talking about it as a valiant thing. We have to educate the masses on healing, farming, medicine, aging, self-sufficiency, mutual aid, how to rattle the cages and shake the trees and beat these sons of bitches!

Richard Branson poised to beat Jeff Bezos into space | Financial Times
Jeff Bezos Risks It All for His Space Dream | WIRED
How Elon Musk Became Space's Top Entrepreneur With SpaceX and Starlink | Observer

These are more of the perversions of our times, and while I touch upon them in the interview above, well, come on folks — all those billions, all those tax dollars, all those S.T.E.M. graduates, all the time and mental energy with satellite constellations and the macho “I am going into orbit first” bravado, man, if that is not enough to occupy real left-left journalists’ shows and mindsets, then I have no idea what does. Because, we are on a planet of forced starvation, forced feedback loops of no water, depleted soils, ag collapses, rising seas, inundation, no infrastructure, housing issues, war-war-war materials/equipment sales. These human scum above should be, well, tanked. They represent beyond hope, beyond humanity. Playing with space trips, and then, the mega constellation, and the telecoms and corporations tying to internet of things/nano things, all of that, it ties into self-indulgence and massive profits beyond anything Carnegie or Rockefeller of JP Morgan of old could have imagined.

It is about total surveillance and tracking and subjugation of man, woman, flora, fauna.

Tax payers foot the bills — triple or more taxation on everything; paying for infrastructure to supply these felons with everything, from roads to communication to air space; then, all the externalities of the fallout of their predatory and casino capitalism; all the trained/educated men and women coming from tax payer funded schools who end up working for these billionaires, in their companies; all the dead-cultural crap these people are infecting the world with; all the lies of Hollywood and others in media propping them up or even covering their lives and their schemes at the expense of the real stories.

These space programs, trips to the moon, man-womxn in the cans/rockets/shuttles programs, take away from the hard scrabble life stories and struggles of the 90 percent of the global population. We can fix and mitigate and compensate/end a world of nukes, forever chemicals, endocrine disrupters, deforestation, ocean acidification, over-harvesting, bad education, bad farming, and the like, including bad medicine, no medicine and even antibiotic microbial resistance and viruses, and income inequality and so much more, maybe even violence.

But we need to get rid of the billionaires and multi-millionaires!
Get rid of despots and lords of war. Because these Bezos and Gates and Branson and Walton, et al. characters are plain ice cold murderers who have TV shots, platforms and stolen trillions from the workers, the tax payers. They are normal, their behavior valorized and we are the chumps, expendables.

*****

Bats in Switzerland harbour viruses with ability to jump to humans

“Whitey on the Moon”

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)

I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
(while Whitey’s on the moon)

The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)

I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin’ up,
An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face an’ arm began to swell.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)

Was all that money I made las’ year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain’t no money here?
(Hm! Whitey’s on the moon)
Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I’ll sen’ these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

The post Batty Bioweapons, 5G, and Star Wars first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Monotheistic Roots of Nationalism

Orientation

Over the last three hundred years in the West, nationalism has supplanted religious, regional, ethnic and class loyalties to claim a secular version of the commandment “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me”. How did this happen? Let’s say we have an Italian-American member of the working-class who lives in San Francisco. How is it possible that this person is expected to feel more loyalty to a middle-class Irishman living in Boston compared to Italians living in Milan, Italy? How is it that this loyalty is so great that this Italian-American would risk his life in the military against the same Italian in Milan in the case of a war between the United States and Italy? Why would the same working-class man kill and/or die in a battle with Iraq soldiers who were also working class? My article attempts to explain how people were socialized in order to internalize this nationalistic propaganda. Nationalism used the paraphernalia of a particular kind of religion, monotheism, to command such loyalty. This article is a synthesis of part of my work in chapters two and three of my book, Forging Promethean Psychology.

Questions about nationalism, nations, and ethnicity

Nationalism is one of those words that people immediately feel they understand, but upon further questioning, we find a riot of overlapping and conflicting elements. There are three other words commonly associated in the public mind with nationalism and used interchangeably with it: nation, state, and ethnicity. The introductions of these terms raise the following provocative questions:

  • What is the relationship between nationalism and nations? Were there nations before nationalism? Did they come about at the same time or do they have separate histories? Can a nation exist without nationalism? Can nationalism exist without a nation? Ernest Gellner (Nations and Nationalism) thinks so.
  • What is the relationship between a state and a nation? Are all states nations? Are all nations states? Can states exist without nationalism?
  • What is the relationship between ethnicity and a nation? Can one be part of an ethnic group and not have a nation? Can one be a part of a nation without being in an ethnic community?

There is rich scholarly work in this field and most agree that nations, nationalism, ethnicities, and states are not interchangeable.  Despite scholars’ differences about the questions above, they agree that nationalism as an ideology that arose at the end of the 18th century with the French Revolution. Because our purpose is to understand nationalism as a vital component in creating loyalty we are, mercifully, on safe ground to limit our discussion to nationalism.

Elements of Nationalism

Four sacred dimensions of national identity

In his wonderful book Chosen Peoples, Anthony Smith defines nationalism as an ideological movement for the attainment and maintenance of three characteristics: autonomy, unity, and identity. Nationalism has elite and popular levels. Elite nationalism is more liberal and practiced by the upper classes. Popular nationalism is more conservative and practiced by the lower classes. According to Smith, the four sacred foundations for all nations are (1) a covenant community, including elective and missionary elements; (2) a territory; (3) a history; and (4) a destiny.

The fourth sacred source of nationalism – destiny – is a belief in the regenerative power of individual sacrifice to serve the future of a nation. In sum, nationalism calls people to be true to their unique national vocation, to love their homeland, to remember their ancestors and their ancestors’ glorious pasts, and to imitate the heroic dead by making sacrifices for the happy and glorious destiny of the future nation.

Core doctrine of nationalism

These four dimensions of sacred sources in turn relate to the core doctrine of the nation, which Smith describes as the following:

  1. The world is divided into nations, each with its own character, history and destiny.
  2. The source of all political power is the nation, and loyalty to the nation overrides all other loyalties.
  3. To be free, every individual must belong to a nation.
  4. Nations require maximum self-expression and autonomy.
  5. A world of peace and justice must be founded on free nations.

Phases of nationalism

Most scholars agree that nations are a necessary but insufficient criterion for nationalism. While most of them agree that nationalism did not arrive until the end of the 18th century, almost all agree with the following phases of nationalism:

  1. Elite nationalism—This first nationalism emerged when the middle classes used language studies, art, music, and literature to create a middle-class public. The dating of this phase varies depending on the European country and ranges from the Middle Ages through the early modern period.
  2. Popular nationalism—A national community took the place of the heroes and heroines who emerged with the French Revolution. This nationalism was political and was associated with liberal and revolutionary traditions. This phase is roughly dated from 1789 to 1871.
  3. Mass nationalism—This nationalism was fueled by the increase in mass transportation (the railroad) and mass circulation of newspapers. It also became associated with European imperialism and argued that territory, soil, blood, and race were the bases of nationalism. This last phase of nationalism was predominant from 1875 to 1914.

In the second and third phases of nationalism, rites and ceremonies are performed with an orchestrated mass choreography amidst monumental sculpture and architecture (George Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses)

Due to the Industrial Revolution, among other things, individualists began to sever their ties to ethnicity, region, and kinship group as capitalism undermined these identities. By what processes were these loyalties abandoned while a new loyalty emerged? The new loyalty is not based on face-to-face connections, but rather it was mediated by railroads, newspapers and books. This is a community of strangers whose loyalty to the nation is not based on enduring, face-to-face engagements. As we shall see, states create nationalism by two processes: first by pulverizing the intermediate relationships between the state and the individual and second by bonding individualists to each other through loyalty to the nation forged by transforming religious techniques into secular myths and rituals.

Centralized State Against Localities and Intermediate Organizations

Absolutist states in Europe didn’t emerge out of nothing. According to Tilly, they emerged out of kingdoms, empires, urban federations, and city-states and had to compete with them for allegiance. In feudal times, local authorities could match or overwhelm state power. This slowly changed as the state centralized power.

In their battles against these other political forms, states learned hierarchical administration techniques from churches that had hundreds of years of experience.

Churches held together the sprawling kingdoms of Europe, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the early, central, and high Middle Ages. In order to command obedience, the absolutist state had to break down the local self-help networks that had developed during the feudal age and among those states that became empires. What stood in the way of state centralization were the clergy, landlords, and urban oligarchies who allied themselves with ordinary people’s resistance to state demands.

Dividing and conquering intermediaries

Early modern popular allegiances of culture, language, faith, and interests did not neatly overlap with centralized political boundaries. States played a leading role in determining who was included and who was excluded in their jurisdictions. This would force people to choose whether they wanted to live in a state where they would, for example, become a religious or cultural minority. Furthermore, the state can play its cultural, linguistic, and religious communities against one another by first supporting one and then switching to support another.

It may seem self-evident that absolutist states would try to join and expand whatever local identity a people had, such as the Basques or the Catalans in Spain. However, this was not initially the case. A local identity was interpreted as a threat just like any other non-state identity—region, ethnic group, or federation—because it competed with the state for people’s loyalty. It was only later when states were out of cash and desperate for manpower that they began trying to manipulate these outside loyalties by promising citizenship and later education in exchange for taxes and conscription.

Sociologists and social psychologists have demonstrated that among a group with internal conflicts, the best way to get them to forge unity is to present them with a common group enemy. An individual’s group loyalty is solidified by discrimination against an outside group. Most often a scapegoat is selected because it is present, visible, powerless to resist, and useful for displacing aggression.

Building a centralized nervous system: postal networks and newspapers

States reduced barriers between regions by developing roads and postal systems. In the late medieval world, the emergence of private mercantile networks enabled postal communication to form. In the 15th and 16th centuries, private postal networks were built. In France, the postal system was created as early as the late 1400s, and in England it came about in 1516. They expanded until they linked much of Europe together, employing 20,000 couriers. Turnpike construction upgraded routes from major centers to London. From the second half of the 18th century on the postal network offered regular service between regions as well as into London. By 1693 in the United States regular postal service connected Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, and the comprehensive postal network assured postal privacy. The network of US postal systems came to exceed that of any other country in the world and was a way to bring the Western frontier under the umbrella of the Northern industrialists in their struggle against the agricultural capitalists of the South.

Postal networks also supported the creation of news networks intended for bankers, diplomats, and merchants. They contained both the prices of commodities on local markets and the exchange rates of international currencies. Newspapers also helped centralize and nationalize American colonies by pointing to commonalities across regions. For example, the Stamp Act led to the first inter-colonial cooperation against the British and the first anti-British newspaper campaign.

State vs. Religion Conflicts

In spite of what they learned from ecclesiastical hierarchies about organization, the state and the Catholic church were opposed to each other. The church was an international body that had a stake in keeping any state from competing with it for power. Before the alliance between merchants and monarchs, the Catholic Church played states off of one another. One event that began to reverse this trend was the Protestant Reformation. Protestant reformers may not have been advocates for the national interests of Germany, Switzerland, Holland, or England per se, but they were against the international aspirations of the Catholic church. Protestant leaders like Wycliffe and Hus called for the use of vernacular (local language) rather than internationalist Latin in religious settings. The Protestant religions became increasingly associated with either absolute monarchies or republics (e.g., the Dutch).

Religious Roots of Nationalism

What is the relationship between nationalism and religion?

It is not enough for states to promise to intervene in disputes and coordinate the distribution and production of goods, although this is important. Bourgeois individualists must also bond emotionally with each other through symbols, songs, initiations, and rituals. In this effort, the state does not have to reinvent the wheel. There was one social institution prior to the emergence of absolutist states that was also trans-local and trans-regional. Interestingly, this institution also required its members to give up their kin, ethnic identity, and regional identity in order to become full members. That institution was religion. A fair question to ask is, what is the relationship between religion and nationalism?

Do religion and nationalism compete with each other? Do they replace each other? Do they amplify each other and drive each other forward? Do they exist in symbiosis? Theorists of nationalism have struggled with this question. At one extreme of the spectrum is the early work of Elie Kedourie (1960), who argued that nationalism is a modern, secular ideology that replaces religious systems. According to Kedourie, nationalism is a new doctrine of political change first argued for by Immanuel Kant and carried out by German Romantics at the beginning of the 19th century. In this early work, nationalism was the spiritual child of the Enlightenment, and by this we mean that nationalism and religion are conceived of as opposites. While religion supports hierarchy, otherworldliness, and divine control, nationalism, according to Kedourie, emphasizes more horizontal relationships, worldliness, and human self-emancipation. Where religion supports superstition, nationalism supports reason. Where religion thrives among the ignorant, nationalism supports education. For Enlightenment notions of nationalism, nationalism draws no sustenance from religion at all.

Modern theorists of nationalism such as Eric Hobsbawm (Nations and Nationalism since 1780) and John Breuilly, (Nationalism and the State) share much of this position. For these scholars, secular institutions and concepts such as the state or social classes occupy center stage, while ethnicity and religious tradition are accorded secondary status. For Liah Greenfeld (Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity), religion served as a lubricator of English national consciousness until national consciousness replaced it.

For Anthony Smith, nationalism secularized the myths, liturgies, and doctrines of sacred traditions and was able to command the identities of individualists not only over ethnic, regional, and class loyalties, but even over religion itself. What Smith wants to do is conceive of the nation as a sacred communion, one that focuses on the cultural resources of ethnic symbolism, memory, myth, values, as they are expressed in texts, artifacts, scriptures, chronicles, epics, music, architecture, painting, sculpture, and crafts. Smith’s greatest source of inspiration was George Mosse who discussed civic religion of the masses in Germany.

How the State Uses Religious Paraphernalia in the French Revolution

If we examine the process of how the state commands loyalty, we find the state uses many of the same devices as religion. After the revolution in France, the calendar was changed to undermine the Catholic church. The state tried to regulate, dramatize, and secularize the key events in the life of individual—birth, baptism, marriage and death. French revolutionaries invented the symbols that formed the tricolor flags and invented a national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” The paintings of Delacroix and Vermeer supported the revolution. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen became a new belief system, a kind of national catechism. By 1791 the French constitution had become a promise of faith. The tablets of the Declaration of Rights were carried around in procession as if they were commandments. Another symbol was the patriotic altar that was erected spontaneously in many villages and communes. Civic festivities included resistance to the king in the form of the famous “Tennis Court Oath,” (Serment du Jeu de Paume) along with revolutionary theater. The revolution, through its clubs, festivals, and newspapers, was indirectly responsible for the spread of a national language. Abstract concepts such as fatherland, reason, and liberty became deified and worshipped as goddesses. All the paraphernalia of the new religion appeared: dogmas, festivals, rituals, mythology, saints, and shrines. Nationalism has become the secular religion of the modern world, where the nation is now God.

What occurs is a reorganizing of religious elements to create a nation-state, a social emulsifier that pulverizes what is left of intermediate organization while creating a false unity. This state unity papers over the economic instabilities of capitalism as well as the class and race conflicts that it ushers in.

Monotheistic Roots of Nationalism

How monotheism differs from animism and polytheism

Anthony Smith is not simply saying that religion itself is the foundation of nationalism. He claims that the monotheism of Jews and Christians forms a bedrock for European nationalism. However, Smith does not account for why animistic and polytheistic religious traditions are not instrumental in producing nationalism. What are the sacred differences between magical traditions of tribal people and monotheists? The high magical traditions of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Aztecs, and Incas are not much like the Jews and Christians. We need to understand these religious differences so we can make a tighter connection between monotheism and nationalism.

According to Smith, the foundation for the relationship between a monotheistic people and its God is a covenant. A covenant is a perceived voluntary, contractual sacred relationship between a culture and its sacred presences. This contractual relationship is one of the many differences that separates monotheism from polytheism and animism. In my book From Earth-Spirits to Sky-Gods, I show how polytheistic and animistic cultures perceive a necessary, organicconnection between themselves and the rest of the biophysical world, and this connection extends to invisible entities. The monotheistic Jews were the first people to imagine their spiritual relationships as a voluntary contract.

The first part of a covenant agreement is that God has chosen a group of people over all other groups for a particular purpose. This implies that God is a teleological architect with a plan for the world and simply needs executioners. Polytheistic and animistic people imagine their sacred presence as a plurality of powers that cooperate, compete, and negotiate a cosmic outcome having some combination of rhythm and novelty, rather than a guiding plan. Like Jews and Christians, pagan people saw themselves as superior to other cultures (ethnocentrism), but this is not usually connected up to any sense of them having been elected for a particular purpose by those sacred presences.

The third part of a covenant is the prospect of spreading good fortune to other lands. This is part of a wider missionary ideal of bringing light to other societies so that “the blind can see”. It is a small and natural step to affirm that the possession of might—the second part of the covenant (economic prosperity and military power)—is evidence that one is morally right. We know that the ancient Judaists sought to convert the Edomites though conquest. On the other hand, while it is certainly true that animistic and polytheistic people fight wars over land or resources, these are not religious wars waged by proselytizers.

The fourth part of a covenant is a sacred law. This is given to people in the form of commandments about how to live, implying that the natural way people live needs improvement. In polytheistic societies, however, how people act was not subject to any sort of a plan for great reform on the part of the deity. In polytheistic states, the gods and goddesses engaged in the same behavior as human beings, but on a larger scale. There was no obedience expected based on a sacred text.

The fifth part of a covenant is the importance of human history. Whatever privileges the chosen people have received from God can be revoked if they fail to fulfill their part of the bargain. The arena in which “tests” take place is human history, in the chosen people’s relationship with other groups. For the animistic and polytheists, cultural history is enmeshed with the evolutionary movement of the rocks, rivers, mountains, plants, and animals. There is no separate human history.

Lastly, in polytheistic societies, sacred dramas enacted in magical circles and temples were rituals. This means they were understood as not just symbolic, representational gestures of a reality that people wished to see in the future. Rather, they were dramatic actions believed to be real embodiments of that reality in the present. In the elite phase of monotheism in the ancient world, rituals were looked upon with suspicion because people became superstitiously attached to the ritual and thought their rituals could compel God to act. In From Earth Spirits to Sky Gods, I coined the word ceremony to describe sacred dramas that were more passive and less likely to create altered states of consciousness. These were intended to show deference and worship to a deity who was not subject to magical incantations. A religious ceremony, at least among middle and upper-middle class, is more passive. The priest or pastor does most of the work while the congregation supports what the priest or pastor is doing.

Common Elements Found in Monotheism and Nationalism

Let’s start with some definitions. Monotheism is a sacred system prevalent in stratified state societies with possible developing empires in which a single, abstract and transcendental deity presides over “chosen people” via a contract or covenant. Nationalism is a secular system which exists in capitalist societies in which a single nation claims territory regulated by a state. Before launching into a description of the commonalities, Table A provides a snapshot overview of where we are headed.Loyalty to one God; loyalty to one nation

All sacred systems have to answer the question of whether the sacred source of all they know is singular or plural. Monotheistic religions break with the pluralistic polytheism and animism of pagan societies and assert that there is only one God. It is not a matter of having a single god who subordinates other gods. This is not good enough. The very existence of other gods is intolerable. Any conflicting loyalties are viewed as pagan idolatry.

Just as monotheism insists on loyalty to one God, so nationalism insists on loyalty to one nation. Claiming national citizenship in more than one country is viewed upon with suspicion. Additionally, within the nation, loyalty to the nation-state must come before other collective identities such as class, ethnic, kinship, or regional groupings. To be charged with disloyalty to the nation is a far more serious offence than disloyalty to things such as a working-class heritage, an Italian background, or having come from the West Coast. In the case of both monotheism and nationalism, intermediaries between the individual and the centralized authorities must be destroyed or marginalized.

Loyalty to strangers in the brotherhood of man; loyalty to strangers as fellow citizens

The earth spirits, totems, and gods of polytheistic cultures are sensuous and earthy. In tribal societies, they are part of a network among kin groups in which everyone knows everyone else. The monotheistic God is, on the contrary, abstract, and the community He supervises an expanding non-kin group of strangers. Just as monotheism insists that people give up their ties to local kin groups and their regional loyalties, so the nation-state insists that people imagine that their loyalty should be to strangers, most of whom they will never meet. The universal brotherhood of man in monotheism becomes the loyalty of citizens to other citizens within the state. In monotheism, the only way an individual can be free is to belong to a religion (pagans or atheists are barely tolerated). In the case of a nation-state, to be free the individual must belong to a nation. The state cannot tolerate individuals with no national loyalty.

Many inventions and historical institutions facilitate one’s identifying with a nation. The invention of the printing press and the birth of reading and writing helped build relationships among strangers beyond the village. Newspapers and journals gave people a more abstract sense of national news, and they were able to receive this news on a regular basis. The invention of the railroad, electricity, and the telegraph expanded and concentrated transportation and communication.

The problem for nationalists is that all these inventions can also be used to cross borders and create competing loyalties outside the nation-state. Increasing overseas trade brought in goods from foreign lands and built invisible, unconscious relations with outside producers. In the 19th century, another connection between strangers began with the international division of labor between workers of a colonial power and workers exploited on the periphery.

Monotheistic contract of equality before God; constitutional contract of equal citizenship

In polytheistic high magical societies, it was only the upper classes who were thought to have a religious afterlife. If a slave was to have an afterlife at all, it would be as a servant to the elite. Monotheism democratized the afterlife, claiming that every individual, as part of God’s covenant agreement, had to be judged before God equally. So too, nationalism in the 18th century imagined national life as a social contract among free citizens, all of whom were equal in the eyes of the law and the courts of the nation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, popular nationalism included the right to vote in elections.

Monotheistic and nationalist history is repackaged propaganda

According to Anthony Smith, the history that religions construct is not the same as what the professional historians aspire to do. For example, historians ask open-ended questions for which they do not have answers. They accept the unknown as part of the discipline and accept that an unknown question may never be answered. In contrast, accounts of religious history are not welcoming to open-ended questions. Rather, they ask rhetorical questions for which they have predictable answers. Those believers or non-believers who ask open-ended questions are taught that the question is a mystery that will only be revealed through some mystical experience or in the afterlife. Further insistence on asking open-ended questions is viewed as blasphemy or a sign of heresy.

So too, nationalist renditions of history do not welcome open-ended, skeptical questions. The history books of any nation generally try to paper over actual struggle between classes, enslavement, colonization, and torture that litters its history. Members of a culture that have built nationalist histories like to present themselves as being in complete agreement about the where and when of their origins. But, in fact, evidence about the past often competes with each other and are often stimulated by class differences within the nation. Just as religion attacks open-ended, critical questions of heresy, so nationalists tar and feather citizens as unpatriotic when they question national stories and try to present a revisionist history.

Monotheistic and Nationalist History Is Cyclic

All national histories have a cyclical shape. They begin with a golden age and are followed by a period of disaster or degradation and, after much struggle, a period of redemption. First, there is a selection of a communal age that is deemed to be heroic or creative. There is praise for famous kings, warriors, holy men, revolutionaries, or poets. Second, there is a fall from grace, whether it be a natural disaster, a fall into materialism, or external conquest. Third, there is a yearning to restore the lost communal dignity and nobility. In order to return to the golden age, they must emulate the deeds and morals of its past epoch. For Christianity, the golden age consists of the story of Adam and Eve. For the Hebrews, it is the Old Testament with Moses in the wilderness. In the United States, it is the time of pilgrims, pioneers, frontiersman, cowboys, and Western expansion. These are mythic stories are endlessly recycled today in television program and movies.

Monotheist and Nationalist Founders Are Treated as Divine

Nationalist history is sanitized, polished, and presented as a result of the deeds of noble heroes. This mythology is intensified by the way the founders of religion and the nation are treated. It is rare that Moses, Christ, or Mohammad, in addition to their good qualities, are treated as flesh and blood individuals with weaknesses, pettiness, and oversights. So too, in the United States, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are treated like Moses or Christ, having charismatic powers.

Monotheistic and nationalist altered states of consciousness

Altered states can be created by either sensory saturation or sensory deprivation. A great example of sensory saturation to create an altered state is the Catholic Mass. Here we have the bombardment of vision (stained glass windows), sound (loud organ music), smell (strong incense), taste (the holy communion), and touch (gesturing with the sign of the cross). Sensory deprivation in a monotheistic setting includes fasting, prayer, or meditation. Popular monotheistic states of consciousness invite speaking in tongues, and devotional emotional appeal.

Sensory deprivation in nationalistic settings is being at boot camp and on the battlefield of war itself. Sensory saturation occurs in nationalistic settings at addresses by prominent politicians, such as the presidential State of the Union addresses, in congressional meetings, at political rallies, and during primaries. Presidential debates and elections are actually throwbacks to ancient rituals and ceremonies. Those diehards of electoral politics who attend these rituals are almost as taken away by the props as were participants in a tribal magical ceremony. In the United States, the settings include the Great Seal of the United States hanging above the event, along with the American flag, a solemn pledge of allegiance, a rendition of “God Bless America,” and a military parade.

Religious and Nationalistic Attachment and Expansion of Land

The relationship between monotheism and territorial attachment is conflicted. On the one hand, elite monotheists in ancient times depreciated the importance of territorial attachment as an expression of pagans whom Christians feel are enslaved to the land. The prophets promote a kind of cosmopolitanism. Yet on the other hand, the more fundamentalist sects in popular monotheism insist on locating the actual birthplace of the religion and making it the scene of pilgrimages—Muslims go to Mecca, Christians to Bethlehem—or even a permanent occupation as with Zionist Jews in Palestine.

In a way, on a more complex level, the rise of a nation’s sense of loyalty based on geography is a kind of return to pagan attachments to place. For nationalists, attachment to a territory is a foundation-stone. In the United States stories and music celebrating the pilgrims landing, the revolutionary cites like Bunker Hill and the settling of the American West are examples.

Religious Zionism to Nationalist Manifest Destiny

Earlier we said that what separates monotheism from polytheism is the expansionary, missionary zeal of monotheism. This tendency was also characteristic of many nation-building projects throughout history. Both monotheism and nationalism wish to expand. There is an exclusive commitment to either one religion or one nation; yet once that exclusive commitment is made, the religion or nation sometimes advocates for expansion around the world. We can see this with Western imperialism, which in many cases sends in the missionaries first.

Commonalities in the Processes of Socialization into Monotheism and Nationalism

Table A showed the relatively static commonalities between monotheism and nationalism. These center mostly on beliefs and the use of propaganda paraphernalia on people. But there are many commonalities in how people are socialized over time. These include methods of transmission, rites of passage, special occasions throughout the year, educational training and geographical pilgrimages. We also have similarities on conversion experiences, how loyalty and exclusivity are maintained and how religious and nationalistic populations are ex-communicated. Please see Table B for a summary.

Qualification: What About the Place of Islam in Nationalism?

It probably crossed your mind that I did not include Islam in my monotheistic roots of nationalism comparisons. Certainly, Islam is monotheistic. Furthermore, when we look at Islamic fundamentalism, it might seem like there is fanatical nationalism at work.

But a closer look shows that Islam has similar internationalism as the Catholics. Being fanatical about your religion that you will kill and die for it is not necessarily nationalism.

Why did Islam not develop a nationalism the way the Jews and the Christians did?

There are at least the following reasons.

  • Western nationalism was inseparable from the development of industrial While Islam had a “merchant capital” phase of capitalism, they never went through the industrialization process that capitalism did in the West. Industrialization is very important in pulverizing intermediate loyalties.
  • Nationalism in the West was not built by one country at a time. The Treaty of Westphalia in 1689 created a system of states that became the foundation for nationalism at the end of the 18th. There was no system of states that existed in West Asia at the time. Predominantly what existed were sprawling empires, not nation-states.
  • In the 19th and 20th century, Islam has become a religion of the oppressed. European nation-states were not fighting against imperialism when they arose in England, France, the United States, and Holland. Their development was not shackled by fighting defensive wars. West Asian nationalism could not develop autonomously.

Conclusion

My article began by drawing your attention to how powerful nationalism is in swaying people to be loyal to strangers they have never met as well as to kill and die for them just because they occupy the same territory. I drew some boundaries around the meaning of nationalism and pointed out how people confuse nationalism with nations, states and ethnic origin. Then, following the work of Anthony Smith, I identified four sacred dimensions of national identity, five parts of its doctrine and three phases of nationalism.

Next, I discussed the need for nationalists to first tear down competing loyalties of kinship ties, ethnic loyalties, regional and class identifications in order for it to rule without competition. After pulverizing intermediate loyalties, it then builds up a centralized state through postal networks, national newspapers, railroads and telegraph systems which act as networks for nationalism. I raised and answered questions about the relationship between the state and religion. Do religion and the state compete with each other? Do they replace each other? Are they mutually supportive? Then I gave an example of how the radical wing of the French Enlightenment used religious paraphernalia in the hopes of creating a society based on reason, which came out of the French revolution.

My article then takes a step further. I argue that the state uses a particular kind of religion to strengthen its loyalty. It is no accident that the countries of the world that never developed nationalism in the 18th and 19th centuries were not Jews and Christians. There is something about the monotheism of the Jews and Christians that was the best foundation to build nationalism and the centralized state that developed in Europe in the 19th century. Most of the rest of my article shows the similarities in the beliefs and dramatization between monotheism and nationalism. Lastly, I close with a table that shows how similar nationalism and religion are in their socialization processes from birth to death. I also addressed the question of why Islamic monotheism did not lead to Islamic nationalism.

It is no wonder that nationalism has such a hold on people. Since most Europeans and Yankees are either Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, nationalist indoctrination already has an infrastructure built in with monotheistic beliefs, practices, and socialization. Sure, there are some people who are monotheists and not nationalistic. And there are some people who are nationalistic but not very monotheistic. But most people in Europe and Yankeedom are both. Most of those people are the working-class people who buy both nationalism and monotheism and then get killed or maimed in wars, at least partly because they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.

• First published in Socialist Planning After Capitalism

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